Second Place- Alternate Universe
Third Place - Romance

Underwater Light



Author:Maya


Chapter Twenty

The Summons

You can’t change the way I am
I’ll be the last to help you understand
Try and love me if you can
Are you strong enough to be my man?
When I’ve shown you that I just don’t care
When I’m throwing punches at the air
Are you man enough to understand?
Are you man enough to be my man?


Harry had not realised he was looking forward to waking up with Draco before he didn’t.

Before he even opened his eyes, all he could do was lie there and think about how it would have been if he hadn’t woken up alone.

The look of skin so close to his eyes that it became pale background to tiny fair hairs, making a silver sheen against the nape of Draco’s neck. Warmth and peace and a certain security in being so very together, in being able to measure out time with someone else's breath.

He was beginning to have some creative ideas involving Draco’s chest against his own and husky voices and hands against sleep-warmed skin when it occurred to him that having steamy fantasies with Draco in the room would be incredibly thick.

He opened his eyes hurriedly.

Draco came out of the bathroom, brushing his teeth.

He looked young and cheerful in the morning light, hair a gleaming mess, wearing grey suit trousers and a white shirt he was trying to button up one-handed. He gave Harry a brilliant smile around the toothbrush.

Harry felt the pang of disappointment in his chest ease. This whole scene was so – comfortable. Something he could get used to, far too easily.

Then he frowned. “Isn’t that my toothbrush?”

“Yeff.” Draco removed the toothbrush. “My mouth felt disgusting,” he explained unrepentantly. “I knew you wouldn’t mind.”

There was a trace of toothpaste ornamenting his lower lip. Harry thought that his mouth looked anything but disgusting.

If he developed a toothpaste fetish, he would definitely be a deviant.

“Lupin left us both a new set of Muggle uniforms,” Draco continued, gesturing to himself. “Apparently being on an educational trip with our teachers requires us being in our uniforms at all times, according to the cruel rules of the fearsome Muggle school from which we hail. I wanted to think up a false name for myself, but Lupin said there was no need.” He looked distinctly sulky. “Spoilsport.”

Harry propped himself up on his elbows, unable to stop smiling.

Draco made a face at him.

“Get a move on, Potter. I want my breakfast.”

Harry yawned and stretched. “How come you’re so chipper? I thought you always slept in late.”

“It is late,” Draco answered absently. “It’s past eleven. You were sleeping like a log.”

He picked up his tie and examined it doubtfully. Eventually, he put it around his neck. Then he held the two ends and waggled them vaguely about.

“Er,” he said at last. “A little help here…?”

Harry wished he was less pathetic, and that he could help this constant smile.

He got up and took the two ends of the tie from Draco.

Of course, all of this involved being close to Draco, which always had an unfortunate effect on Harry’s ability to think. He tried to seem composed as he stepped in and felt that hollow scooped-out sensation in his throat, as the breath left him.

Draco smelled… well, mostly like toothpaste.

Harry tied the tie as efficiently as he could, and stepped back. He could function much better at a slight distance.

“Thanks,” Draco said, in his most lordly manner. “Now come on, hurry up, I’m starving.”

“I’ve got to shave first,” Harry mumbled, heading for the bathroom as he rubbed sleep out of his eyes.

Draco followed him, which would have been a bit tricky if Harry had needed to use the toilet. Draco also perched on the sink and got in the way as Harry tried to shave.

Harry really wished he minded, but that comfortable feeling remained.

“Hey,” Draco said, peering at Harry’s face in a critical manner. “You have some serious stubble. You lucky bastard.”

If Draco kept looking at him, he was going to end up cutting his throat.

“Why’s that?”

“Oh, I like the look.” Draco looked meditative. “It's manly, and I am woefully unable to achieve it.”

“I'm sorry I have so much more masculine appeal than you do.” Harry kept a straight face while Draco spluttered his indignation.

Later, when Harry was putting on his socks, he reflected on how pathetic he was. It wasn’t as if any hope had been offered. There had been nothing but a little sleepy comfort, a smile in the morning. Oh, but that sense of being safe and warm was pervading him, and logic wasn’t destroying it.

If it hadn't been for... everything else, the furious need to do something and protect people instead of hiding away like a scared child, he might have been happy.

If it hadn't been for everything else.

*

Hermione was at one with horror. What had happened last night?

They were all standing outside the hostel, discussing plans for the day. Harry and Malfoy were a little apart from them, forming what appeared to be an exclusive little sub-group. They were talking continuously, soft snatches appearing in the chinks of Sirius and Lupin’s conversation. Hermione could not make out the words, only Malfoy’s amused, animated drawl and the low pleased murmur of Harry’s voice, still scratchy with sleep. Malfoy had his tie in a casual sideways knot that was at once practised and not at all Malfoy’s style, and he was standing so close to Harry that his hair was touching Harry’s forehead.

Harry, who was rumpled and had not shaved properly, turned his face to Malfoy’s whenever Malfoy shifted stance or either of them spoke. From some angles, it must have looked as if his slow smiles had already become slow kisses.

In a public place!

It was no better when they decided to walk up and down the nearest streets in order to find the nearest magical spot from which Lupin could Owl Dumbledore of their safe arrival. They walked side by side, Malfoy gesturing when he talked as if all his conversations had to be subdued versions of his little mimicries, and Harry’s hand touching Malfoy’s wrist whenever he let his hands fall.

“I think electricity is very funny,” she heard Malfoy say. “They use it to make light and toast, you know.”

Ron loudly forbidding anyone to say that Malfoy reminded them of Mr Weasley drowned out the happy hum of Harry’s response.

“I know none of you wanted to do this,” Lupin said as they walked, and Malfoy and Harry no longer looked happy. Nor did anyone else.

“That’s right,” Harry answered curtly.

“Since it is now a fait accompli, perhaps we can all take it as a rest before some – truly horrible things occur.” Lupin’s voice was serious. “A war is coming, and I know all of you will fight, but… you’re young, and it’s summer. A few weeks of safety can do you nothing but good. You should have a holiday, while you can still have something you want. Tell me what you all want to do.”

“I want to go back,” Malfoy snapped, both he and Harry still looking stern, their tense shoulders pushed against each other. Then Malfoy’s eyes dropped from Lupin’s, and he shrugged. “If I can’t have that, I’d like to go see a shop with electric things in it. Even if I can’t have a money card to buy things with.”

“My father is a good man,” Ron asserted vehemently.

Malfoy was looking at him as if he was crazy when Harry mentioned, “I have a credit card. Sirius got it for me: he said his family’d always had links with the Muggle government.”

Sirius looked shifty under Lupin’s accusing glare.

“We used to know some people – er, whom we bribed and bespelled to do our bidding,” he muttered. “Look, I just thought, he could use it. The part of London his flat’s in is mostly Muggle, he could use it for groceries and stuff-”

Malfoy looked speculative. “I’m sure it will come in very handy.”

“What do you want me to buy you?” Harry asked, in the upsetting tones of one who had Malfoy’s number and against all reason, liked it.

“Me? No, no, Harry, don’t be shocking, I couldn’t possibly be a kept man, my mother would have fits,” Malfoy said in a distracted manner, putting his hand on the small of Harry’s back. Hermione privately longed to knock it away, but Harry relaxed back into the touch and let Malfoy steer him into a shop. “But there’s no harm having a look around,” Malfoy’s voice drifted back to them.

They made arrangements to eat in the café across the road. Lupin said he would find a magical place on his own, and he was also the one who went into the shop and told Harry and Malfoy where they were going. Sirius was already off to order food, Ron claimed that electronic equipment brought back traumatic childhood memories, and Hermione did not want to look at them again until she had figured out what was going on, and how on earth she could fix it.

*

Draco kept it on his lap even when they were in the café. Harry had foreseen this from the minute he had stopped beside it in the shop, as if listening to some arcane call.

“And what do you call this?” he’d asked.

“An espresso machine,” Harry had answered in fear.

“Espressomachine,” Draco had repeated thoughtfully. “What does it do?”

“I’m warning you in advance, Draco, if you go into strong hysterics I will abandon you here.” Harry had told him what it did.

“You don’t even like coffee very much, Harry,” Ron pointed out in puzzled tones.

“I forbid you to say such terrible things about Harry,” Draco instructed, running his hands lovingly over the box. There was a strange and terrible look in his eyes.

Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I like coffee all right.”

“Well, but,” Ron persisted, “If it’s yours, and it’s for your flat, why is Malfoy holding it and – touching it like that?”

Harry could hardly blame Ron for looking disturbed. Draco was cooing to the box now.

“I am keeping it safe for Harry. All safe and sound and full of sweet, sweet unexplored caffeinated potential.”

Harry reached out and stilled one of Draco’s stroking hands. “It’ll be safe under the seat,” he promised.

The summer-morning light was soaking through the café like butter through a crumpet, and Draco’s eyes were wide and appealing. The back of his hand rested warm, unmoving under Harry’s palm.

“Weasley might kick it,” he pleaded. There was a dent on his lower lip, slightly to the left where his smiles and sneers always began, that was pleading: kiss me, kiss me, kiss me.

Harry smiled resignedly, stretched and took the box out of Draco’s hands, depositing it under his seat.

Draco brooded on his wrongs and his menu at the same time. “Weasley, your dark suspicions of me are quite correct. I do know all manner of revolting Dark Arts spells.”

“Really?” asked Ron.

“Yes. I shall use them all on you if you let your oversized feet flail in the direction of the precious box.”

It was hard to maintain hostility towards a man who was patently in love with an espresso machine. Even Sirius said: “Bet I know more Dark Arts spells,” in a tone that was quite amiably competitive.

There was a radio in the café, and that attracted Draco’s attention as well. He was pleased enough about it, and the espresso machine, that he was almost as relaxed as he might have been with Slytherins. His only trace of unease showed in the way he kept close to Harry, and it wasn’t as if Harry minded.

They got plates of bacon and muffins and tea and Draco’s cherished coffee, and Ron talked about keeping the plastic menu for his dad. Sirius helped himself to a lot of coffee, and Harry wondered if it might be a genetic thing. Even Hermione smiled when Draco progressed from tapping his fingers on the table to singing, in a small voice, into a spoon he was pretending was a magic microphone.

“It was the dungeons that did it,” Harry said comfortably, while Draco sang quietly about how it had been so long since somebody whispered. “Full of Potions fumes. Very bad atmosphere. Turned his brain.”

Ron snickered into his bacon.

“His brain wasn’t that strong to begin with. The inbreeding, you see,” Harry went on sympathetically.

“Hey,” said Sirius.

“Shut up,” Draco chimed in, and hit him on the shoulder with his spoon.

He let his hand rest there afterwards, wrist on the edge of Harry’s shoulder, warm and close. He reached with his other hand for the end of Harry’s croissant, and Harry stole a piece of toast in retaliation. Draco caught his eye and smiled permission, then relaxed against him further. It was a nice day, and they had slept in late, and it was wonderfully easy and pleasant to lean lazily and all murmur good-natured commonplaces between munching.

“Afterwards we can go see about renting a car,” Draco announced. “Professor Lupin said.”

Harry smiled at the sheer delight in Draco’s tone. Draco smiled back at him, a secret gleaming smile that the coffee cup made private between them, and it struck Harry that there might be another reason for Draco staying close by.

A holiday while you can still have something you want.

The idea seemed full of real promise for a moment.

Then Lupin came in through the café door, his face drawn and grey. He had the Daily Prophet in his hand.

*

Harry and Malfoy were still making a display of themselves when Professor Lupin came in. He went to stand beside Sirius, discreetly angling the paper towards him, which manoeuvre became less subtle as Sirius leaned in to read it and hissed between his teeth.

Hermione frowned, not close enough to see, and then felt Ron go still beside her.

“What’s-” Harry began on the other side of the table, but it was Malfoy the brat who reached over to take the paper.

Ron grabbed his wrist. “Malfoy, no,” he said, and Hermione went cold at the sympathetic horror in his voice.

Malfoy looked pinched and spiteful suddenly in the bright light, mouth curling at the tone of Ron’s voice. He shook off Ron’s hold disdainfully and held his hand open, imperiously, for the paper.

“Let me talk to you outside, Draco,” Lupin said in a quiet voice, looking at him as if he was a wounded child.

“I require neither your conversation nor your sympathy. I only want the paper,” Malfoy returned sharply.

Lupin looked older every moment, but he nodded and gave Malfoy the paper. Malfoy held it without a tremor in his thin, grasping fingers, his face unmoved except for the narrowed eyes.

“I see,” he said after a moment. “Excuse me,” he added, and threw the paper down on the table as he rose.

“Draco, wait-” Harry said, grabbing the paper.

Malfoy paid no attention to him, and in a moment they saw him cross the road from the café window. Cars screeched as he strode back towards their bed and breakfast.

“What does it say, Harry?” Hermione asked.

“I’m going after him,” Harry said curtly.

None of them argued. Hermione had learned in first year that when Harry spoke like that, the best thing to do was get right out of the way. She looked up at the determined set of his mouth as he went and thought that perhaps, if Malfoy needed comfort, they should send someone else too.

First she snatched up the paper.

‘Dark Mark over Malfoy Manor: Nobody left inside.

The discovery, early this morning, of the disappearance of Narcissa Malfoy and the students who had taken refuge in her home, has caused widespread dismay. ‘We must remember,’ said an influential member of the Ministry, ‘Mrs Malfoy was rumoured to be closely affiliated with You-Know-Who in her time, and most of these students belong to families who have been called into question… It is quite possible they fled to join him, to swell the ranks of his army before a decisive move against us.’

‘We utterly deny these allegations,’ stated Mrs Parkinson, mother of one of the missing girls. When asked why Pansy Parkinson did not return to her home after Hogwarts was closed, she declined further comment.

Whether this is a mass defection to You-Know-Who, or a kidnapping on the greatest scale yet seen in a private residence, this paper feels unable to say. There are, however, reasons to believe that some of those missing at least were abducted against their wills. Aurors at the scene report signs of a struggle, and there are grave suspicions that the Unforgivable Curses may have been used. Readers of this paper are urged to stay at home, and strengthen their wards!’

“Oh God,” Hermione said. “Oh – God. Poor Malfoy. We have to go after him.”

Sirius was saying something in a low dazed voice about broomstick rides with his cousin when they were children. Hermione thought he had gone quite mad before she realised that Mrs Malfoy was his cousin.

She put her hand on his arm.

“Sorry, sir,” she said. “I’m so terribly sorry – we should all go after Malfoy.”

“I’ll get his coffee machine,” Ron said eagerly. “He’ll want that looked after. I can do that: my dad taught me all about eckeltricity.”

“Do you think,” Lupin said, still standing and looking as old as Dumbledore, “that Draco will appreciate a whole bevy of sympathisers? Particularly ones who have, in the past, exhibited no particular liking for him? I don’t know him as well as I might wish, but I know the boy is proud. He would see it as charity, and he would make himself extremely unpleasant.”

“Professor Lupin,” Hermione said desperately, “you don’t understand. Harry is useless at this sort of thing, he’s crazy – no, I don’t mean that, I mean – he was brought up in a cupboard, he’s not sure what to do with people! Malfoy will need someone who knows what to say.”

She'd seen Harry try to comfort people - she'd been the person Harry was trying to comfort. She didn't think Malfoy needed someone fumbling for words right now.

She was ready to go, but Lupin’s gaze held her in place.

“Draco is not very emotionally mature himself,” he said gently. “I doubt he’d know what to do with a normal response, but I think they might understand each other. More than that, Draco has always been entirely ruled by his emotions-”

Surprise at hearing nasty Malfoy described like that must have been written all over Hermione's face, because Lupin nodded to her.

“He listened to his father and Professor Snape, and I think – I think he might listen to Harry.”

Hermione still wanted to go, to fix things, to do something instead of sitting there and thinking that shutting down Hogwarts had not stopped the disappearances for a day. She felt cold in the warm sunlight streaming through the window, and only distantly heard the voices of Ron and Sirius, arguing over who would take best care of the espresso machine.

Lupin reached over and touched her hand.

“Have a little faith in him, Hermione,” he said. “We can go see if they are trying to kill each other soon.”

*

Harry caught up with Draco at the door of the bed and breakfast, grabbing him by the elbow and turning him around. Draco looked at him as if he could not imagine a more loathsome sight than Harry.

“Come running after me again?” he snapped. “Should have known it.”

Harry kept quiet and kept hold of Draco’s arm, pulling him through the door and then into the dingy little sitting room where residents could go while their rooms were put in order. By then he had fought down the urge to snap back, and deliberately looked away from Draco’s expression, which invited not so much sympathy as immediate offence.

“Draco, I’m so sorry,” he said, and felt suddenly sick with panic. There was nothing he could say that would make this better, and he should be able to do something – for Draco, he should be a support.

“Harry, go to hell! It’s all over. Do you have any idea what it’s like?”

“Well–” Harry said.

“You don’t have any idea!” Draco snarled. “To be a failure? I tried and I tried, I’ve worked so hard, you saved the day over and over again, you always won, and I couldn’t even keep them safe!”

“You’re not a failure,” Harry told him in a heated voice.

Draco’s mouth twisted. “You call this a success, I suppose? My mother – my mother – you,” he demanded abruptly. “You had bad dreams last night. Was she in them?”

Harry stopped and breathed in. He had been trying not to think of it, the swirl of blond hair and the scream that cut through the night. Ever since he had seen that paper, he’d been trying not to think of a day in Hogsmeade, and Narcissa Malfoy on the pier. He’d almost – he hadn’t understood her, but he thought he had liked her.

Draco’s face was the same ugly demand it had been when he held out his hand for the paper.

“Don’t be kind to me,” he said.

“Yes,” Harry snapped. “Yes, she was there. I didn’t know it was her at the time, but I think it must have been. There were screams, and I think – I think she was being tortured. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

Draco stood still in the centre of the dull little room, in the midst of Muggle mundanity where Harry had never been able to picture him. His skin and hair looked washed out under the fluorescent lights, and his eyes were narrowed down further to cruel slits.

“Don’t worry about what I want,” he said. “At least I had parents.”

“Draco, for God’s sake-”

“My mother’s going to be fine, you must have read the paper. She’s known to be connected with the Dark Lord. She’s not like one of your sainted heroes, Dumbledore’s little pets, the ones who bleated the party line and-”

“Shut up about my Mum and Dad!”

“-died without ever having a thought of their own because they were pathetic and stupid!”

Harry punched him.

Draco reeled back, blood bright at the corner of his mouth, and while Harry was trying to piece together, through his anger, the thought – what have I done? – he smiled.

“Oh,” he said. “I’m so glad that you did that.”

He was still bent from the shock of the blow, and he simply threw himself at Harry, scoring a savage elbow in his stomach as they tumbled down to the floor. Harry sucked in a sick, shocked breath and while he was doing so Draco hit him in the face.

He registered a moment to be thankful that he had lost his glasses when Draco tackled him, and then he punched Draco in the stomach and tried to shove him off.

“I knew this would happen,” Draco snarled, his voice thick with blood. “I knew, I knew this was going to happen, I knew I was going to fail, I knew they’d all be taken, and now I’m just left with you, all I have left is you, and you’re going to die!”

“I’m not going to die,” Harry growled, grabbing a handful of Draco’s shirt and shoving his fist up hard into Draco’s ribs, trying to force him up.

Draco stayed on his chest, a weight that was all vicious elbows and grasping hands.

“Yes, you are,” he gasped furiously. “Yes, you are, you stupid, stupid idiot, of course you are. You have to stop believing in all of that, in stories, in lies. The side with the most weapons and the most numbers is going to win, and there are no heroes. Nobody’s been able to stand against him, we’re going to lose, and you’re crazy and you’re going to die!”

“I’m not afraid.”

“I am!” Draco shouted. “I should have – I did know this would happen. They’re all gone, you blind, stupid fool, and you’re going to die!”

He thumped the top of Harry’s breastbone hard, leaving Harry dizzy from lack of breath, and Harry swung up wildly and heard rather than felt his fist connect with Draco’s nose. Draco rocked back briefly, and Harry seized the moment to lever himself into a position where he could sit up, holding the front of Draco’s shirt to hold him in place.

Draco’s gaze wavered, uncertainty breaking up the pain that always made his face look hateful.

Harry suddenly realised why nobody had approached him while he was depressed. It was awful, rough, too much like fury and too unlike the moderated vent of Hermione’s crying. Draco had just lost his mother and they’d been hitting each other, what was the matter with him? He didn’t know what to say.

He had always been paralysed whenever someone cried, though, and he didn’t feel paralysed in the slightest now. The blood was pounding in his veins, he was staring up at Draco’s face, and Draco’s heart was hammering insistently under his closed fist. Draco had approached him, after all; Draco had understood.

“Draco,” he said softly. “I’m not going to die.”

He pulled Draco in hard, and kissed him. Draco made a small desperate sound and took Harry’s face in his hands, tilting his face up to his own, and kissed him hungrily back.

Harry could taste the blood at the corner of Draco’s mouth, the cut opening again as Draco opened his mouth, and he was dimly concerned somewhere at the back of his mind. Not concerned enough to stop, though, not concerned enough even to pause when he was biting and licking at Draco’s lips, and Draco was kissing him fiercely back. They only just retained enough presence of mind to be careful of Draco’s nose, and only parted because they had been panting for air before the kiss and Harry thought his lungs might explode. Harry didn't move and wouldn't let go even when he was gasping for breath, and Draco only moved up to Harry’s swelling cheekbone. He licked that, breath harsh against Harry's skin, and the lick burned, it felt like a slow tease, Harry wanted it to go on and had to pull Draco's mouth back down to his at once.

When they had to pause for breath again, one of Harry’s hands was inside the collar of Draco’s shirt. Draco’s chest was rising and falling, his skin was warm, and his breath was a steady rhythm against Harry’s cheek. They were both alive, they were both safe for now, even if the brush of Draco’s kiss-close mouth held him caught in a continuous wildly nervous moment.

“It’s okay,” Harry lied in a low voice. “It’s okay, it’s…”

He barely moved and he was able to kiss the soft, trembling corner of Draco’s mouth. He turned his face into one of Draco’s hands, bent his head a fraction and bit gently into Draco’s wrist. Draco’s moan was a long helpless sound.

Harry lost it completely and grasped Draco’s hair in one hand, pulling his head back for another kiss and scrambling to get just a little bit closer, to have just a little bit more of him. Draco slid his arm around Harry’s neck and pulled him in closer, teeth sliding over Harry’s lower lip, and Draco’s back was against the dingy sofa and Harry had his hand at the buttons of Draco’s shirt, almost had it open and had Draco’s mouth under his and Draco’s skin under his hands, and… .

Lupin opened the door, stood frozen for an instant, and then said: “I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t know-” and exited precipitately.

They heard his voice outside assuring Sirius that he didn’t think the boys needed any help. Harry let go of Draco’s shirt.

Draco leaned his forehead against Harry’s and whispered: “I am so embarrassed.”

“Thanks very much,” Harry said, and felt himself go somehow even redder.

“I didn’t mean that,” Draco responded, and Harry was relieved to hear him manage something like a drawl. “It’s just – caught by a teacher. It’s shameful. Slytherins are supposed to be sneakier than this.”

Harry puffed out a cautious laughing breath against Draco’s cheek, and when Draco removed his arm from round Harry’s neck he did it slowly, and only moved back far enough to get a good look at his face.

Harry looked in return. Draco’s nose was swelling and his lip was still bleeding, and Harry felt a pang of guilt before he realised that one of his own eyes was sealing shut.

“How many medical spells do you know?” he asked.

“Plenty,” Draco said briskly. “I spent my entire childhood dashing about the countryside on my broom, you know. After an incident with a helicopter – an incident in which I was heroic, dashing and unafraid, despite the fact the thing was quite clearly trying to murder me – my… mother made me learn all sorts of spells in case I ended up stranded miles from home with a broken leg.”

He leaned into Harry as he extracted his wand from his back pocket. Harry ignored the impulse to turn his face into Draco’s neck and got out his own wand.

The swelling on his cheek removed, he placed the wand gently on Draco’s swollen mouth, and whispered a spell. Draco raised an eyebrow.

“Don’t you even dare say anything filthy, Draco Malfoy,” Harry commanded. “If Lupin’s listening at the door, I’ll die of embarrassment.”

“Would I?”

“You’d better not, or I’m not fixing your nose.”

Draco pursed his healed lips and looked considering. “Maybe you should leave that for an expert.”

“So I can look like I came in to beat you up. Thanks,” Harry said dryly.

“Well… just be careful to spell it straight. I’m particularly fond of my nose.”

“I don’t see why,” Harry said, grinning. “It’s not at all your best feature.” He grinned wider as Draco spluttered with protest. “I’ve heard it called pointy,” he went on affectionately. “Very pointy. Like a rat's, you might say.”

“I hate you, Harry Potter,” Draco said with conviction. “I’ve always hated you, and I hate you more every day.”

Once his nose was fixed, he grabbed on to Harry’s wand hand, fingers closing tight around the wrist.

“I don’t want to see them,” he said in a tight voice. “I don’t want to see any of them.”

Harry wanted to hold him back, but wasn’t sure if it was allowed. “You don’t have to. We’ll stay here.”

“I don’t want them to know I don’t want to see them!” Draco snapped, as if it should have been obvious. “I’m not scared. I’m going.”

“I’ll stay with you,” Harry said, and Draco dropped his eyes and nodded, getting to his feet and letting go as he rose. He made for the door.

“Besides, I don’t want Professor Lupin thinking shocking things about me,” he said over his shoulder. “He might talk, and then my reputation would be compromised.”

Panic set in, and Draco turned at Harry’s silence.

“Um,” said Harry at last. “I don’t know… I don’t want… I didn’t, um, take advantage of you or anything, did I?”

The fluorescent lights were still glaring, the sofa and carpets still shabby and grey, and Draco still very white. Harry thought he would never forget the way Draco looked at him, for that torn tender moment.

“No, you didn’t.” He paused, one hand on the doorknob and the other behind him, touching Harry’s sleeve. He smiled. “Pity,” he added lightly.

They went out, and Harry saw the others’ faces, framed over the taut line of Draco’s shoulder and full of pity.

Draco squared his shoulders. “How will this incident affect the people on the field? It can’t be good for morale.”

*

They talked strategy, and nothing but strategy, for hours. It reminded Hermione of those nights in Malfoy’s bedroom, being a group of schoolchildren trying to plan away everything.

She had almost liked him then.

He was very different now. He kept talking, in a hard, practical way, very matter-of-fact and as unlike Malfoy’s usual swagger as he could have been. Hermione kept faltering when she could have replied, but Harry backed Malfoy up. He offered opinions as he always did, voice diffident and sure at once, and after he spoke Malfoy seemed to gain heart and go on.

Malfoy never looked at him, though. They never even touched, not gently, so Hermione might be guessing wrong.

They reached for a piece of paper at the same time and knocked wrists hard. They kept knocking elbows and wincing: it was obviously real, it obviously hurt.

Once Harry said: “It might help… get these parents on our side. These are their children, and they’ve been taken. It could make anyone reconsider their loyalties.”

“Even Slytherins,” Malfoy murmured. “And you don't think any of them went willingly?”

Harry met Malfoy's eyes steadily. "No," he said. "No, I don't think they would."

Malfoy smiled a thin smile, and leaned back into Harry so they hit shoulders hard.

It was a stupid idea. Malfoy at least had surely been close to someone before, at some time. They couldn’t both be that tense and awkward and desperate. It was stupid to think that the only way they knew to get close was by hurting each other.

At various points through the day, Sirius and Lupin went for sandwiches. The cartons of juice and plastic straws puzzled Ron badly, and when Hermione glanced over she saw Harry had taken the carton off Malfoy before he could even try.

“I would’ve figured it out eventually,” Malfoy claimed loftily.

The corner of Harry’s mouth twitched. “Of course. You’re so well-versed in Muggle culture.”

“I’m fairly knowledgeable, yes.”

“Especially about ties,” Harry remarked. Only Hermione saw the protective fierceness of the look he gave Malfoy, as Malfoy bowed his head and muttered darkly about Harry’s clothing.

Malfoy’s mother could be dead, and they were teasing each other and hurting each other. It couldn’t mean – even these boys couldn’t be this stupid.

They sat around all day, discussing tactics and trying to predict the future. Hermione wanted to say something, or wanted Malfoy to be different so she could provide a comforting touch. She wanted something normal, but Malfoy seemed to want it this way.

When Harry said he was tired, Malfoy said he was too. They got up and Hermione saw them exchange a tired smile, as if Malfoy had succeeded in something. As if they understood each other.

Hermione didn’t understand. She was about to ask where Malfoy was planning to sleep, when Lupin looked over at her and gave a tiny shake of his head.

Harry and Malfoy went into Harry’s bedroom together.

*

Harry woke the next morning, and did find Draco beside him.

Last night in the dark, Draco had been able to reach out, put a tenacious arm around him and say “Not a word, Harry” menacingly into the back of his neck, but that had been last night, and they had both been tired enough from pretending to be fine that they had gone to sleep almost immediately.

It was bright morning now, and Draco was curled up on the other side of the bed, clearly not used to being close to someone else. Harry had not the faintest idea what to do.

He didn’t know what to do with someone in his bed. He didn’t know any of the comforting, proper things to say to someone who had just been bereaved, and the worried lines between Draco’s eyebrows as he slept didn’t make him feel kind. He wanted to go kill Voldemort, and then come back and tell Draco. That might make him feel better.

He was useless at this kind of thing. It was pointless to just lie there and feel angry and watch Draco sleep with that miserable look on his face.

Harry reached out and touched his face, screwed-up with anxious sleep as it was. It was a stupid impulse, and he was clumsy enough about it to wake Draco instantly.

They hadn't even shut the curtains last night. The room was filled with uncompromising sunlight, tearing shadows from every corner, making every white crease of the sheets glare. Draco did not even lift his head from the pillow, just stared up with wide grey eyes.

He said coolly, “Why is it that you never try to take what you want?”

Harry didn’t know what to do with that. So he answered softly, “Shut up, Draco. I am.”

He still felt self-conscious, in a bed, in bright daylight, with Draco traumatised or something, but he wasn’t going to back down. He wasn’t going to take anything back.

He felt like he should be careful.

He looked back at Draco, and brushed his hand over the line of his jaw, his cheekbones, his forehead. The worry lines softened and disappeared under his hand, and that seemed – encouraging, so he didn’t stop. He stroked the side of Draco’s face, and it wasn’t particularly soft or anything, it was only skin, but it was Draco’s skin, and Draco was allowing this, his indecipherable gaze steadily fixed on Harry. He brushed the hair from Draco’s eyes, and that was soft.

Draco reached out silently, clasped a hand at the back of Harry’s neck, and drew him down. Harry’s breathing came quick and hesitant as their mouths touched once, briefly, and then again more surely.

The light wasn't so bad, really. Seeing everything seemed like a really good idea as Draco let out a long sigh and let his eyes fall almost closed. His lashes were a silvery haze when he was this close, and he opened his mouth under Harry’s, and stretched out. Harry hovered over him for another uncertain moment, and then somewhere in the long kiss he ended up with Draco pressed against him.

Light pooled like water in the shallow curves of Draco’s collarbones as he rubbed his face against Draco’s neck. He opened his mouth against it, tasted smooth skin and salt, and felt the shift of Draco’s muscles as he moved under him.

Draco’s hand on his upper arm drew him back up a little, back to Draco’s mouth and another long, slow kiss. It was warm and almost dreamy, but Harry was still shivering, and he could feel the hitch in Draco’s chest as he breathed. Heart and imagination were both racing, were tripping over themselves, and he could not stop touching him.

He touched very, very lightly, still testing to see if he was allowed and not quite believing that he could be. He ran the back of his fingers against the curve of Draco’s throat, and over his warm trembling chest. He pressed his knuckles against Draco’s ribs.

Draco’s hands stroked over the muscles of his back, slowly, hesitating like Harry was but never stopping. The kiss was an offering, stretched out warm as Draco’s body, a promise quivering in the air.

When Harry opened his eyes Draco was looking back at him, so close their eyelashes tangled together. Their lips brushed and pressed against each other, and as they looked Draco stroked along Harry’s ribs too, a light touch that sent shivers chasing after each other down his skin. Draco drew his fingers down to rest on the hollow of Harry’s hipbone.

He kept looking at Harry. It was almost a question.

Harry closed his mouth over Draco’s again, felt Draco’s body rising under his, felt the inside of his lip and the edge of his teeth slide against Harry’s tongue. Draco’s fingers slipped an inch under Harry’s waistband, and Harry’s breathing went desperately shallow.

There was a knock on the door.

“Harry? Draco? Are you up?” asked Lupin.

Draco removed his hand hastily and Harry scrambled off him, feeling all the blood come back up to flood his face. He heard Draco give a very different and exasperated sigh behind him.

“This is getting beyond a joke,” Draco said crossly. “Er – come in, Professor Lupin!”

Harry crawled back to sit against the headboard, hoping that Lupin would attribute the slightly dazed look to sleepiness. He did his best to look casual and newly woken, and as he was crawling back his hand brushed Draco’s and Draco glanced at him, warm as the accidental touch.

Lupin came in with a paper clenched in his fist. Any emotion but fear drained away from Harry’s chest, and left him cold, waiting to hear the worst.

He heard it.

“This is an emergency Owl from Dumbledore,” Lupin said bleakly. “The plan has totally failed. He’s recalling us to Hogwarts – and, as far as he knows, we are the only group left.”

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