Second Place- Alternate Universe
Third Place - Romance

Underwater Light


Chapter Six


The serious stuff, and the light-hearted

Looking in your eyes and I'm just getting started

Tell me your secrets, all your hopes and wishes too

I want to know everything there is to know about you

Harry Potter had been watching Draco Malfoy for years.

Of course, he hadn't realised that until now, but there it was. He remembered searching the Ravenclaw table for Cho's face back in fourth year, but his crush had proved far more ephemeral than his hatred of Malfoy. Harry had never begun a new year without searching among the crowds on the train and at the Slytherin table for Malfoy. He was unable to relax until that familiar loathed blond head was spotted, and he could sit back, enemy located, narrow his eyes and glare for a minute.

He hadn't realised that until now. Now that he was trying out this novel concept of friendship he observed how much he already knew about Draco Malfoy's daily life. It was amazing how much more he saw without his eyes narrowed.

The pattern of Malfoy's life seemed to be that there was hardly any pattern. Sometimes he came into breakfast at a respectable time, though he always looked a little severe. Occasionally Pansy and Blaise Zabini would be dragging him in, trying to force-feed him as he grouchily demanded coffee. More often than not, he didn't show up for breakfast at all. He wasn't a morning person, and he missed far too many meals.

But Harry did discern a certain pattern. He formed a pattern himself. Every morning that Malfoy appeared, Harry always walked past the Slytherin table and said good morning. And Malfoy would always respond, though he never seemed to think of volunteering a greeting.

And every Friday, Malfoy arrived a little late to breakfast, but with shining eyes and barely repressed glee, and he talked almost incessantly and ate an obscene amount.

Harry couldn't work that out, until his inquiries of Hermione discovered that Creative Magic was the first class on Friday mornings.

Whenever Malfoy received one of his packages of sweets from home, he had a very definite pattern of behaviour. He opened the exquisitely wrapped parcels carefully, slowly, casting gloating glances at the slavering Crabbe and Goyle. Then, with a flourish, he would tip all the expensive sweets onto his plate.

That done, he would tilt his head back and survey the entire Slytherin table, making sure that he had everybody's attention. He was always the arrogant and capricious prince, bestowing sweets upon those he considered worthy with deliberation and malice.

Whenever he saw that somebody particularly wanted a certain sweet, he would smugly eat it himself. Harry didn't like to watch this display, but he did watch - and it made him smile.

And it unsettled him, slightly, to see the pattern established over these few weeks of friendship broken.

A parcel arrived at a Thursday breakfast. Malfoy's pedigree eagle owl glided toward the Slytherin table with the same lazy grace as its owner, every wingbeat declaring that it was not bred to make clumsy movements, thank you very much.

Harry saw it before Malfoy did, though when it landed Malfoy looked up with no surprise. But when he saw the letter he hesitated.

Harry realised that Malfoy never got letters. There were those regular packages of sweets, even a few tasteful and costly gifts, but... Harry never remembered him getting letters before.

Except now he had a letter, and he was turning it over in his hands, his face carefully blank as if he had not yet figured out the correct emotion to display. He tossed the parcel over into Pansy's lap, indifferent, preoccupied and - yes, this was very uncharacteristic.

Malfoy seemed to have come to a decision. He rose slowly, and now there were emotions passing briefly over his face. There was a certain apprehension and wariness. Harry kept looking at him as Malfoy skirted the tables, making for the exit. He wondered if he should be concerned.

Then Malfoy's eyes lit on Harry. He flashed him a swift bright smile.

"Good morning."

Of course, one thing that this whole Malfoy business should have taught him was that sometimes a break in the pattern was good.


In spite of the reassurance of Malfoy's greeting, Harry kept remembering the look of shock on his face, the quick fumble when he took the letter.

So he made his excuses to Hermione and Ron, and followed Malfoy to the Potions classroom. They both had Potions class first on Thursdays.

He found Malfoy in the empty Potions classroom. Malfoy was sitting on one of the desks, back propped against a wall and knees drawn up to his chest. His head was bowed, and he seemed to be deep in thought.

Malfoy looked up when Harry came in, his eyes widening in surprise. Otherwise his face remained unchanged.

"Potter," he said.

"Malfoy," Harry responded. "I - came to see if you were all right?"

"Concerned? Very ministering-Gryffindor of you." There was no resentment in Malfoy's tone, but there didn't seem to be any desire to tell Harry all his woes either.

Harry noticed the letter crumpled up in one hand.

"I hope Professor Snape will be here," Malfoy said suddenly.

Snape wasn't there - a lot. Of course, they all knew what he was doing - spying - and every time he went, they all knew there was a chance he might not return.

To think that there would come a day when Lupin would be filling in for Snape in Potions, and Harry would regret it.

"I thought you liked Professor Lupin."

"I don't mind him," Malfoy answered. "But I prefer Professor Snape."

That was true, of course. Malfoy was always slightly more tense while Snape was away. Actively liking Snape - Harry wouldn't have thought it could be done.

For some reason, this short exchange seemed to relax Malfoy a little. He leaned further forward, his chest pressing against his knees, and said abruptly:

"My father was the one who wanted a child."

Harry had absolutely no idea what to say to this.


Malfoy glanced down at the creased paper in his hand. The curve of his lower lip made him look like a discontent, ignored child.

"He used to spend time with me. Now he's gone, she feels she has to take an interest."

"What did your mum say in the letter?"

It was odd, somehow, to say 'mum' to Malfoy. Malfoy might well have had a father and mother, but never a mum and dad.

Of course, Harry couldn't exactly picture Lucius Malfoy taking his son out for a ball game. Maybe a shrunken Muggle-head game.

"She wants to see me. She says we'll have a day out in Hogsmeade."

There was no trace of emotion in his voice, but Harry could sense something underneath the unmoved exterior. Harry thought how natural it would be now to cross over to the table where Malfoy sat, and place a hand on his shoulder or something. But Malfoy was not the kind of person who could be touched casually.

"Of course she wants to see you," Harry said.

"Oh, yes. It's the proper thing for a mother to want. She always does the proper thing."

"I'm, ah - I'm sure she loves you."

Malfoy raised his eyebrows and looked at Harry in surprise, and Harry felt as if he had utterly misinterpreted the situation.

"Love," Malfoy repeated, with a soft incredulous chuckle. "You are an infant, aren't you, Potter?"

Harry frowned.

"She might feel a certain affection for me," Malfoy said after a pause. "I just don't know her very well. Whenever she takes me on outings I bring a friend with me so we can all play at being polite, and pretend to know each other."

Harry looked at Malfoy's face, which was calm and shadowed, trying to understand. Are you unhappy or not?

The odd thing was that he thought Malfoy was trying to be straightforward.

"I don't blame her for not being interested," Malfoy told him. "And I wouldn't tell this to just anybody, so if you tell Granger or Weasley I'll grind their bones to make your poisoned bread."

"Malfoy!" Harry exclaimed, stung. "I wouldn't tell anyone!"

Malfoy shrugged.

"Well, I didn't think you would." Harry smiled slightly, and Malfoy continued. "After all, you're Harry Potter. Believer in truth and justice, and the very soul of honour."

You're Harry Potter.

Harry stopped smiling.

"I'm sorry if my basic morals offend you, Malfoy."

Malfoy grinned his rather wicked grin.

"Nah, I don't really mind. It's novel." He paused. "Not that it's not a bit pathetic, Potter."

"Oh, of course." Harry ducked his head to hide a reciprocal grin. "Hey - um, do you want to be partners? In Potions?"

"Do I want to induce heart failure in my favourite teacher? Be serious, Potter. In any case, Goyle would blow up the dungeon without me." But he was smiling. "If you feel like inducing heart failure in that ex-gamekeeper, we'll see."

Care of Magical Creatures was after break.

Harry gave him another quick smile and a nod of assent as Snape entered the classroom. Snape caught it and looked scandalised, as if Harry had been slipping drugs to his favourite. Harry looked at Malfoy's guarded pleasure at seeing Snape there, and was able to regard even Snape without resentment.

He was Malfoy's partner studying salamanders in Care of Magical Creatures. Of course, the animal turned vicious and Malfoy basely abandoned him, fleeing and locking himself in the hut.

"Typical Slytherin," Harry said, just as he would have said at any time in the past six years.

But he was laughing, and so was Malfoy.


"Clothes?" Harry asked blankly.

He and Malfoy were beside the lake, staring out at the wide expanse of water. In spite of Malfoy's often-aired objections to the cold, they always seemed to meet there.

"Yes, Potter. One uses them for covering in winter, decency in the summer and in your case to commit dire crimes against fashion."

Harry wrinkled his nose.

"Dire's a bit strong..."

Malfoy shook his head vehemently.

"No, it's not strong enough. I mean, your robes are all right, it's fairly hard to go wrong with robes, but the Muggle clothes? I thought you were brought up among that lot."

Harry turned towards the lake, wincing as the wind blew directly in his face. The wince covered his expression as he replied:

"I was. That's the problem."

Malfoy, who was sitting on a rock, stretched out his legs and studied them instead of Harry. This, Harry began to realise, was his form of tact.

"Right, I remember. You were forced into the clothes of your cousin, who has his own orbit of gravity. But you have money, don't you? You've bought a few clothes for yourself?"

"Sure," Harry agreed uneasily.

"Then you're to blame. Let me see, the clothes you actually bought would be the slightly better-fitting but brown and utterly drab things you sport occasionally?"

"Look, I don't know how we got onto the subject of fashion- They're just sensible, all right? I mean, clothes aren't that important."

Malfoy's eyebrows shot up into his hair.

"Don't you want to look good?" he inquired, in the scandalised tone of one who will simply not comprehend the situation if the answer is no.

Well, Harry was about to reply, it would be a bit shallow to care about clothes when there's a war going on, wouldn't it? Besides, I'm the Boy Who Lived, I have to fulfill expectations, I can't be sodding well vain, can I...?

Then he remembered that this was Malfoy, and Malfoy might chuck something at him.

He also remembered the acute anxiety he used to feel about Dudley's cast-offs - that bobble jumper! - that dyed-grey uniform he never had to wear - how he used to passionately wish to be like the other children.

"Of course I do," he said slowly. "But... I don't know..."

He looked over at Malfoy, who was wearing a grey T-shirt and jeans with an air usually associated with velvet and lace.

"You... know about Muggle clothes, don't you?" he said.

"Well, I'm certainly not going to wander around looking like you, you monstrous fashion victim."

"Yeah, but... Why do you even wear them?"

Malfoy tilted his head to one side, and paused thoughtfully before he replied.

"It's a - statement. Slytherins don't join the Young Order. Slytherins don't wear Muggle clothes. And I don't do as I'm expected." He narrowed his eyes. "And I certainly don't wear brown corduroy. You make me ill, Potter."

"What clothes do you think I should buy?" Harry asked helplessly.

Malfoy turned around and gave him an appraising look.

Harry averted his eyes. Malfoy had a terribly unsettling way of looking at people. He was completely unembarrassed about doing it, and had the attitude of one checking off items on a list.

"Hmm," he said finally, and got up. "Come on."

"Where are we going?" Harry asked apprehensively.

"Not to rob a shop, you twit. We're going to clear out your wardrobe first, and then we'll re-stock it next time we're in Hogsmeade. Some very nice Muggle clothes shops have opened there."

Malfoy turned around and started walking.

Malfoy had a tendency to act on impulse. Harry had thought of mentioning that this was a Gryffindor trait, but he didn't fancy the idea of an all-out fist-fight.

"Wait," Harry called out. "Won't you have to - I mean, to come into the Gryffindor common room... you'll have to hear the password, right?"



There was a pause. Harry looked wretched. Malfoy looked mildly amused.

"You think I'll sneak up and write graffiti on the common room walls?"

"Something like that..." Harry admitted. "Except a bit more evil."

Malfoy shrugged. "Can't say the thought hasn't crossed my mind. Let's see." He paused. "The Slytherin password is Vici."

Harry smiled. "Wizard Wheezes."

"So very like the Gryffindors," Malfoy said, rolling his eyes. "No imagination. Did it occur to you, Potter, that I could quite easily make up a password? Or indeed that I could exchange passwords, commit my evil deeds, and trust to your Gryffindor honour not to retaliate?"

Well, it was occurring to him now.


"I didn't, as it happens," Malfoy informed him severely. "But I could have. You really shouldn't go around trusting people like me."

"Why, because they might toss out half my clothes?"

"Oh, shut up and get moving."


Slytherins were sly. Slytherins were nasty.

Harry knew all that.

What people had forgotten to mention was that Slytherins had a decided talent for histrionics.

Malfoy was making yet another horrible face as he rummaged through Harry's wardrobe. Harry was sitting on his bed, mildly entertained.

"Oh, ugh, Potter, do you take your glasses off when you go shopping? I can't believe I'm touching this, this is disgusting!"

Nobody could look quite as fastidious as Malfoy. He picked up the clothes gingerly, as if bad fashion sense might be catching.

"Hmm. This goes in the Just About Bearable Pile, this goes in the Toss Them Out Pile, and this goes in the Burn Them, For I Cannot Live In a World Where They Exist Pile."

Malfoy flung the clothes about in a haphazard manner, but when the third shirt was still in mid-air he turned around and pointed his wand.


Ashes floated lazily down to the ground.

"Malfoy! You can't burn my clothes!"

Malfoy's eyes narrowed.

"Watch me."

Harry was watching. Somewhat helplessly. He was also snickering a bit, but he told himself that that was because he'd had the presence of mind to hide his favourite pyjamas.

Malfoy was making some very disturbing snarling noises as he discovered the worst of Dudley's cast-offs.

"Nobody's that huge," he said finally. "You've got to be joking."

"I wish I was."

"I've come to accept that not everyone can have my svelte figure, but this is outrageous. Surely there is some sort of society-"

"To help him diet? There is, but-"

"Well, no." Malfoy frowned at the vast trousers. "I was thinking more in terms of a mercy killing."


"Amazing, the amount of scandalised righteousness you can infuse into one word. Oh. Oh, that's vile."

Malfoy had discovered the shameful pile of Dudley's bobble sweaters.

"Incendio! Incendio! Incendio!"

"Malfoy, stop burning things!"

Malfoy smiled a placid, angelic smile as the ashes fell all around him. Harry was unable to stop laughing.

Ron Weasley opened the door, gave Malfoy a horrified look and immediately slammed out again.

There was a small pause.

"A shared dormitory always causes these kind of problems," Malfoy remarked. "I mean, how do you people deal with it when you bring home - hang on a second, Gryffindors don't have love lives. Never mind."

"We do have love lives! Ron and Hermione-"

"Potter, stop! That's a very nasty image."

"I'm sure our love lives are more interesting than Crabbe and Goyle's-"

"Potter, that image isn't any better!"

"I - what - Malfoy!"

Malfoy abandoned Harry's alarmingly empty closet and sank onto the bed, leaning against the bedstead.

"Again with the scandalised righteousness, Potter," he said lazily. "Hmm. This dealing with the closet of a fashion disaster is tiring work. Maybe I'll go tuck myself up in my nice quiet prefect's bedroom."

He leaned against the bedstead, half-shutting his eyes. His hair looked very pale against the deep red of the hangings.

"Prefects don't get special bedrooms," Harry pointed out.

"Maybe not in your house. Ha. Ha."

"Professor McGonagall says that prefects getting special privileges isn't fair."

"Both Professor McGonagall and the concept of fair do not count in my house." Malfoy smirked, though the effect was somewhat spoiled because the rest of his face remained relaxed and almost amiable. "Slytherin rules. And when it doesn't, it kills the competitors and usurps the throne. I have a very nice private room, thank you very much. Feel free to drop by and salivate with envy anytime."

Harry got up from the bed and eyed the tiny pile of clothes he was supposed to wear with a certain amount of dismay.

"Malfoy, are there seven items of clothing here?"

Malfoy's eyes opened.

"There are that many? I knew I was being lax!"


"It was horrible, Hermione," Ron said darkly.

Hermione was sitting with him by the fire in the common room. He had just dropped on the sofa and buried his face in the cushions. She stretched out, relaxed, happy from hours of quiet reading and ever so slightly mystified.

"What was?" she asked indulgently, stroking his soft red hair.

"Malfoy!" Ron spat the word. "In our dormitory! Doing things to Harry's clothes!"

Men Who Love Dragons Too Much fell off Hermione's lap.

"What! What was Harry doing?"

"I don't know," Ron answered in muffled and morose tones. "He was just there on the bed. He seemed quite happy about the whole thing."

"I... oh, Ron!"

"I know. This is all going too far."

"Well, I should just about say so!"

At this juncture, Harry and Malfoy came walking down the stairs. Harry's voice was clear and amused. Malfoy's voice was lower, but then again, those sly Slytherin tones sounded as if he was murmuring lewd things when he was reading out Potions ingredients.

Harry glanced over at Malfoy when he saw them, less a glance of guilt than a glance of concern.

Right, Hermione thought. Harry was afraid that the big bad Gryffindors would bully Malfoy. When Malfoy was apparently ripping clothes off Harry upstairs!

"Hi, guys," he said awkwardly.

"What were you doing with him?" Hermione demanded, too agitated to bother with further preliminaries.

"He was helping me clear out my wardrobe," Harry answered, puzzled.


Oh. Oh, that's what it was. All right, I can breathe now.

Malfoy leaned back against the stone wall and curled his upper lip at them.

Hermione glared daggers back.

Harry looked concerned. "Ron, you almost ready for Quidditch practise?"

Ron sat up, despite the horrible fact that Malfoy was in the process of poisoning Gryffindor air with his presence.

Of course, Hermione reflected, mention of Quidditch practise might bring Ron back from the grave.

Malfoy's cool voice cut through the silence.

"Oh yes," he said thoughtfully. "Quidditch practise. I'm going to be late."

If Ron had been a dog, his hackles would have risen.

"You're not going to be playing," he snapped. "We booked the pitch."

Harry, thankfully, gave Malfoy a reproving look.

"Ron's right," he told Malfoy. "Remember. Bookings can't be changed. We settled that last year."

'Settled it' was such an amicable term, Hermione thought. Harry and Malfoy had had to be physically restrained from killing each other when Malfoy rubbed out the Gryffindor booking for the fifth time and Dumbledore was forced to step in.

Looking at Harry and Malfoy standing companionably side by side, she really missed the homicidal days.

"I don't mean practise on the pitch," Malfoy said dismissively. "Catch you later, Potter."

He sneered at Hermione and Ron as he strode out.

Harry looked after him, clearly intrigued by Malfoy's last statement. Ron began to rail at Harry before the door had even shut behind him.

Hermione bent down and picked up her book.


Harry knew that he had only been given the captainship because he was Harry Potter.

Traditionally it was given to someone of wizarding family, who had been familiar with Quidditch since childhood and could formulate plans based on remembered games and strategies discussed at home. But of course, exceptions were always made for Harry Potter.

Ron could always be trusted for an encyclopaedic knowledge of every game that the Chudley Cannons had ever played, though, and just now he was detailing one of their Keeper's fabled tricks to the attentive new Keeper, Natalie McDonald.

Harry stood at the side, smiling politely as their voices washed over them.

Ron should've been captain.

"I hope Ron's not frightening Natalie," Dean Thomas said behind him.

Harry turned slightly. Dean was smiling at him, the quiet friendly smile Harry and all Dean's roommates were familiar with.

Dean had always been easy to talk to. Harry relaxed a fraction.

"Why should he frighten Natalie?"

"He frightens me," Dean said with a mock shudder. "All that talk of innumerable past matches makes my vision blur. Of course... I've never been terribly into Quidditch."

That was true, of course. Dean had always remained only moderately enthusiastic about Quidditch, though he had great technical ability, and had kept faithful to his soccer and his art.

"Then why'd you join the team?"

Dean looked slightly embarrassed. "Well - I wanted to spend more time with Ginny."

Harry glanced over at Ginny's red hair. She was talking volubly about the Chudley Cannons, her voice loud and cheerful as usual.

Harry had never understood the brief match-up of Ginny and the withdrawn Dean.

"I'm sorry that didn't work out... Bad luck."

Now Dean was with Parvati, of course, so that was all right. He was so nice - Harry hadn't understood why Ginny had broken up with him. Ginny looked around now to find their eyes on her. She blushed.

"Well, things could be worse," Dean said philosophically. "I could be one of the poor fools on the Slytherin team."

Harry shot him a questioning glance.

"Malfoy runs that lot like a manic drill sergeant," Dean explained. "Surely you've noticed."

What Harry noticed was the lack of rancour with which Dean pronounced Malfoy's name.

Dean had always been quiet, but he saw a good deal.

"I haven't got anything against Malfoy," Dean said. "I hardly know him, but he's never bothered me. I hear you two are friends now?"

"Well. Yeah."

"He's an interesting person," Dean remarked with a shrug. "Terrifying, but unique."


At this moment, Malfoy appeared to prove Dean's point. He was running along the fields surrounding the Quidditch pitch, in hot pursuit of Crabbe and Goyle. His hair was blowing wildly in every direction, his eyes were shining madly and he was carrying a heavy bag. His two Beaters were lumbering as fast as their legs would carry them while he pelted them ferociously with shot-put balls.

"You're never going to get anywhere if you're afraid of being hurt by Bludgers! Get back here! Stand and be smacked around like men!"

Neither Crabbe nor Goyle were that stupid. They kept running, howling occasionally as Malfoy got in lucky hits.

"And power-hungry Slytherin loved those of great ambition," Dean quoted, but he was grinning. "Malfoy's determined to wipe the pitch with Ravenclaw again. Like I said, terrifying."

Malfoy realised his bag was empty at about the same time he drew level with Harry and Dean. Crabbe and Goyle, not realising, pounded onwards.

"Imbeciles!" Malfoy yelled after them.

He glanced over at Harry and Dean, and nodded perfunctorily. He looked exhausted, wiping sweaty blond locks out of his eyes, but he turned and stalked off with the same energy as ever.

Harry grinned at Dean. "But like you said, unique."

He went over to Ron and Natalie.

"Hey, could we have a little less talking and a bit more Quidditch here? Get up in the air!"

Dean smiled. "Yes, captain."


The next Monday at Potions class Harry came early to talk to Malfoy again.

Malfoy had been busy with his fairly spectacular win against Ravenclaw that weekend, and Harry had been spending time with Ron and Hermione. He hadn't seen him alone in a few days, and... he'd been surprised to find that, well, he sort of missed him.

"Congratulations on the win," he said. "I didn't get the chance to wish you luck before the match."

Malfoy lifted his chin. He had shown no sign that he had missed Harry, but he was here early, wasn't he?

Harry was learning to understand Malfoy's ways.

"Slytherins don't need luck," he said. "We have tactics."

"Yeah, and your tactics consist of breaking every rule in the book."

"There are seven hundred ways of committing a foul in Quidditch," Malfoy informed him loftily. "I couldn't be bothered to learn them all."

"You're impossible, Malfoy, has anyone ever told you that?"

Malfoy's face softened slightly. "My father used to tell me that all the time." He paused, then added abruptly: "I can't do anything tonight."

Harry's first emotion was one of gratification. Malfoy had never bothered to tell him something like that before. Showing up usually seemed to be a matter of whim.

He was also, of course, disappointed.

"Oh... Why not?"

"Mad passionate tryst. You know how it is."

Harry's fierce blush had only just started when Malfoy raised his eyebrows and smiled.

"Honestly, Potter, you gullible idiot. I'm damn flattered you think I've got the time to be picking up pretty young things. If you hadn't noticed, you've been keeping me busy recently."

Harry felt more relaxed.

"So the famous Malfoy Charm which can pick up girls in the space of two minutes has lost its efficiency?"

"Never doubt the charm, Potter. It's still in operation, but I don't have two minutes to spare from Astronomy homework."

"Well, if you're already going to be at the Astronomy Tower you probably just have to open a cupboard and step into a clinch."

Malfoy waved a quill at him.

"Now you're thinking like a Slytherin. But unfortunately, I'm not going to the Astronomy Tower. I need to be on open stretches of land where I can fill out the wider scope of my project. And unless I want to start rendez-vousing with cows..."

Malfoy shrugged. Harry leaned against his desk thoughtfully.

"Sounds like you're going to have a pretty dull time of it," he commented.

"Yeah, well."

"...I could come with you, if you want?"

Malfoy glanced up, his eyes extremely grey. It was a colour that seemed to give away nothing.

"You don't do Astronomy," he said. "Another sterling example of your stupidity, Potter, because it is a really great class. Don't tell me your life is so pathetic you want to go around lying around in boring fields for the fun of it?"

Harry looked down at the wood grain of the desk.

"Hermione and Ron are having a private get-together. Tonight's shaping up to be so pathetic I might as well. Besides, I thought you could use the company."

He tilted his head back to give Malfoy a lopsided smile.

"Since you're getting rid of me in order to have more time to pick up young things anyway..."

Malfoy's lip quirked. "Did I say that? Oh, fine, you can tag along. Now run away, little Gryffindor, before the angry Potions master bites you."

Harry looked over, noticed that Snape was present and scowling, and fled to his seat.


Harry lay on the blanket, feeling strangely calm.

There was something wonderful about the sky - it reminded him of the happiness he felt while playing Quidditch. Even now, when it was black and empty, he looked at it and saw a vast playground. And the field was quiet, and the darkness sheltering, and nobody expected anything of him.

He glanced over at Malfoy, whom he saw in profile against the night, pressing the Omnioculars to his eyes. Occasionally he bent down to his parchment and made some notes with his quill, flicking his hair out of his eyes and giving Harry a casual smile as he did so.

Malfoy certainly didn't give Harry the impression that he expected something from him, not even his company. Malfoy was such a self-contained creature; he'd been able to do without proper friends for years - if you didn't count Crabbe and Goyle. Harry reflected that it probably made very little difference to Malfoy whether he was with him or not. It bothered him slightly.

It was such a novel feeling for him - for Harry Potter - to wish someone were paying him more attention.

Harry smiled again, his head resting on his joined palms as he looked up into the sky.

"What are you smiling about, Potter?" Malfoy asked absently, jotting down another note.

"Oh... nothing. I was just feeling - content."

Content. That was the word.

"In a freezing field in the dead of night? Has anyone ever told you that you have low expectations of life?"

Harry reached over and punched him lightly on the shoulder.

"Ah. I see. Contentment comes from the fact you're able to beat the poor helpless Slytherin around. You know, sadism is not the way to live."

"I thought for Slytherins it was the only way to live."

"Ah," said Malfoy, not bothering to deny it. "But you're not a Slytherin."

Harry propped himself up on one elbow.

"I almost was."

Malfoy dropped his Omnioculars.


Harry felt a small irrational spark of triumph that he had Malfoy's attention now.

"The Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin," he admitted, and then quietly, hoping Malfoy would not be offended, "I told it no."

Malfoy didn't even notice his attempt at tact.

"You," he marvelled. "Harry Potter, epitome of all things Gryffindor. Almost thrown in the snake pit." He laughed suddenly, a wickedly appealing laugh. "Now wouldn't that have been something!"

Harry leaned back again, the stars glittering in front of his eyes.

"Yeah," he said. "I suppose it would."

"Oh, the multiple ways in which I would have been able to make your life a misery," Malfoy mourned. "We would've been sharing a bedroom for five years. I could have driven you out of your mind."

Harry closed his eyes, the night air playing on his face. The only noise was the familiar sound of Malfoy's voice and the scratching of his quill.

"Hmm. So you don't think we would have become friends sooner?"

"Are we friends now?"

Harry looked up, blinking as if against sudden hurtful light, into Malfoy's face.

Malfoy's gaze was not spiteful but mildly inquiring, and Harry felt a rush of intense relief.

"I know," Malfoy said, his voice as precise and passionless as a piece of his homework, "you asked me to be friends, and I said yes. But are you my friend?"

Harry half sat up, not sure how to phrase it, wanting to say something special.

Finally, all he could think of to say was a forceful: "Yes."

He waited for a response with a certain tenseness.

"Oh. Good," Malfoy replied, tilting his face up to the stars and then finishing his chart with a flourish.

Harry waited, feeling rather strange, for Malfoy to - give him a proper answer, to reciprocate with some words indicating emotion.

This was such an odd friendship, so unlike the comfortable familiar camaraderie with Ron and Hermione, and the undemanding companionship of Seamus and Dean. This was something very new, new enough for tension and uncertainty, and yet it was... intense. It meant more to him than Seamus or Dean, and it - it had the capacity to hurt him without the security that Ron and Hermione offered.

And now he was lying here with his nerves stretched painfully taut, waiting for something that Malfoy seemed to have no intention of offering.

He felt an obscure desire to hit back.

"Of course, then I would never have been friends with Ron and Hermione," he said, using their names with deliberately stressed affection.

"Yes, that would have been a tragedy," Malfoy said.

"I don't know why you hate them so much," Harry said.

Malfoy was putting away his books and didn't look at Harry as he replied, his profile indicating no emotion besides a certain abstractedness,

"I don't hate them. But you know how I feel about - all right, the Muggleborn. And as for that pack of Weasleys..."

His lip curled.

"My father told me all about them."

"The Weasleys are wonderful people," Harry said angrily, sitting up.

Malfoy's face was quite close to his now, as Malfoy knelt by his schoolbag, and there was no reciprocating anger in his eyes. Rather, he looked quite matter-of-fact.

"His father attacked mine in a bookshop. I don't care if they were enemies, there's no excuse for that kind of behaviour. And his children are no different. Those Weasley twins used to hiss at children who'd just been put in Slytherin. People call me prejudiced, but I don't stoop as low as that. And as for your pet Weasley - he's just like his brothers. He doesn't like me because of my family, and I don't like him because of his. That's the way things are - though the Weasleys needn't be such bloody savages about it."

"That's not t-"

I've heard of his family. My dad... says Malfoy's father didn't need an excuse to go over to the Dark Side.

Harry remembered Ron's slight snigger when he heard this Malfoy boy was called Draco. He'd felt licensed to be unpleasant because of who Malfoy was.

That was one good thing about not having parents. Harry hadn't inherited their grudges or their opinions.

"Ron's a good person," Harry said tiredly, lying back and looking at the stars again. "You shouldn't judge anybody just because of what family they're from."

The whole family's rotten.

"Tell him that," Malfoy sneered.

"I will," Harry answered. "And I'll keep telling you, too."

Malfoy pushed aside his schoolbag and stretched out on the blanket.

"Oh, don't nag me, Potter. Or else I'll set my minions on you."

"Huh." Harry laughed. "I'm not afraid of you."

"Naturally. Harry Potter's not afraid of anything," Malfoy said mockingly.

"Shut up!"

"Fearless Potter. You're the only one in the school who doesn't seem to have those moments of blood-freezing terror."

"Why should my blood freeze?"

"The Boy Who Was Totally Oblivious. For a year people disappeared in the outside world, and Hogwarts was safe. And now students are vanishing under Dumbledore's nose, and our school is no safer than this field, and we all know that someone inside has to be helping him. Are you never scared?"

"I haven't caught you trembling with your head under the bedclothes."

"That's because I have nerves of steel," Malfoy announced grandiosely. "Potter! You bastard, do you have a pillow?"

"I'm using my cloak. See, I wore a cloak. And a jumper. Because it's February, and it's cold, and I'm not an idiot."

"How dare you call me an idiot? You'll be hearing from my lawyers in the morning."

Malfoy villainously tried to steal the folded cloak, but he only succeeded in getting an edge of it.

"Fine," he said with bad grace. "Push over a bit, Potter."

Harry felt a lick of blond hair tickle his ear, and moved to give Malfoy more room. The sky was calm, and Malfoy's breathing was level and reassuring beside him.

"Do you get scared?" Harry asked eventually.

"Hm? Of course I do, Potter, I'm not a bloody valiant Gryffindor. Remember when your stupid Patronus came right at me at that Quidditch match in third year? That was terrifying. It went right for me."

Harry laughed softly.

Right - Malfoy, Goyle and Flint in Dementors' robes.

"I... didn't realise it went straight for you."

"Well, it did."

"In a way it's a left-handed compliment, Malfoy," Harry informed him. "Even in those robes, I recognised you as the adversary."

Malfoy's voice was wry.

"If being charged down by ghost stags means respect, colour me unworthy."

"Oh, don't whine."

Of course, asking Draco not to complain would be a lot like asking the sky to turn yellow, and...


Harry realised he'd thought the name quite naturally. A few weeks ago, it would have been - strange. An almost absurd concept. And now, well - his name was Draco, wasn't it? It - was what he thought of when he looked at him. It was natural.

Not that Harry was going to call him by it or anything.

"I don't whine!" A small pause. "It's cold," Draco complained. "We should go inside."

"Hmmm." It was peaceful in the field. "In a minute."


Harry woke up cold and stiff next morning. He yawned, squinting against the light, turned over and found himself nose to nose with Draco.

He bit his tongue and rolled away hastily, then sat upright. His clothes were soggy with dew.

"Malfoy, wake up! We slept here all night!"

Draco made a small grumbling sound and turned his face into Harry's cloak. He was curled up fast asleep with his hair in his face and his eyes scrunched up. He looked utterly absurd.


Harry seized a shoulder and shook urgently.

"Leave me alone," Draco said in a muffled voice.

"Malfoy, wake up!"

Draco opened his eyes a slit. Then they snapped all the way open.

"Potter, what - oh. Oh, no. Oh, tell me I didn't sleep in a field. Oh, how completely plebeian."

"Yes, that's what's worrying me," Harry said, rolling his eyes. "Whether this will affect my social standing. Everyone will be worried sick."

"Not my housemates," Draco answered promptly. "They'll just assume I was sleeping with somebody. Ugh, my clothes feel horrible - Potter, have I mentioned that I loathe you recently?"

Harry rose and began to brush off his jeans. He offered a hand to help Malfoy up.

Draco, still lying prone, leaned back on his elbows and gave Harry a sour look.

"I despise you."

"Of course you do, Malfoy."

Draco took his hand and watched Harry fold up the blanket without offering to help.

"You can carry my bag," he ordered sulkily.

"The hell I will," Harry returned calmly.

Draco picked up his bag. "I hate you. I abhor you. I-"

"Detest's a good word," Harry offered.

"Thank you, Potter. I detest you with the fire of a thousand suns."

"Oh, be quiet and come have breakfast."


It took a certain amount of persuasion to get Draco to breakfast. He seemed fixed on the idea of getting to a hairbrush and a mirror.

"Don't be vain, Malfoy. You're not skipping. You skip too much as it is."

"You're not my nanny, Potter. I can skip if I like."

"I'll carry your bag."


"How far?"

So when Harry went into the Great Hall, he was carrying Draco's bag on top of everything else. Draco abandoned him at the door, flung himself onto a chair at the Slytherin table and stridently demanded coffee.

Just in case anybody wasn't already looking.

Ron and Hermione greeted him with equal parts hysterical relief and reproach. Apparently, Ron had thought he was with a girl. Hermione wouldn't say what she had thought.

Both of them were appalled by the facts.

"In a field, Harry, the danger-"

"With Malfoy, Harry, ugh-"

Harry looked over at the Slytherin table, where a similar interrogation was going on. Draco seemed to be refusing to answer any questions, and he had his face hidden against Pansy's shoulder. Pansy was looking down at his head with an almost maternal solicitude. Blaise Zabini put his hand on Draco's shoulder.

Hermione reached over and touched Harry's arm. He blinked at her, startled.

"I won't yell at you, Harry - you look cross and exhausted. But you've got to be more careful."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to worry you..." Harry said. "And I'm not cross!"


That Friday, Draco didn't appear.

It bothered Harry. Since Monday, Draco had seemed to understand that he should give Harry an excuse if he wasn't coming. It bothered Harry even more that he himself had turned up loyally every day for weeks.

And... being bothered bothered him. Because, damn it, he did want to see Draco, and surely it was all right to admit that.

They were friends. He'd said the words, and now he meant them.

And Draco had given him the Slytherin password, and said he could drop by anytime.

Harry was disgusted to find he was actually bargaining with himself for the pleasure of seeing Draco.

I won't use the password, but I can knock and ask if he's there. That wouldn't be an invasion of privacy. And if he's not doing anything important, he'll come out. Maybe he even wants me to come. He likes to test people. He likes to test me.

Yes, he thought he would go to the Slytherin rooms.

Harry glanced around in vague surprise as he realised he was nearly at the Hogwarts entrance already.


Harry knew there was something strange happening as soon as the Slytherin door opened. There was an unusual amount of fuss and noise and the girl who opened the door was in low-cut dress robes.

Harry politely averted his eyes from the breasts on display, and asked if he could see Malfoy. It was another indication that something was up when the girl simply blinked and wandered away.

Were her eyes dilated? Somebody should watch these Slytherins.

Was that Blaise Zabini in leather?

This kind of thing was just not on.

Oh, good, there was Draco.

Harry blinked.

Draco propped one wrist against the doorframe, leaning his weight against it and looking at Harry inquiringly.

He was wearing black jeans and a close-fitting shirt the colour of silver. His hair looked soft and bright, as if he'd spent hours on it.

"Um," said Harry. "Hi."

"Hi," said Draco, looking marginally amused. "Just in the neighbourhood, were you? I promise, no ritual sacrifice of virgins is afoot."

"Is there something going on?"

Draco looked a little startled.

"Just the usual outing to the club. You know, beneath the Three Broomsticks. All the older Slytherins go together, every month. I thought you knew."


"Oh, well." Draco shrugged. "I'd ask you to join us, but I have horrible memories of your dancing. Besides, they'd eat you alive."

"Oh - sure. Have a good time."

"That's the plan. See you, Potter."

"Er - goodbye."

Harry felt oddly desolate once the door shut in his face.


"Oh, right, the Slytherins' little orgies," Hermione said primly. "Using the excuse of solidarity to get drunk and feel each other up."

Apparently everybody knew but Harry.


"Well, Harry, don't mope about it," Hermione said. "You can use tonight to get a start on your NEWTs revision."

Ron was sitting at a table, looking hunted, and Hermione was drawing out a colour-coded chart. Ginny was peering over Ron's shoulder with the happy look of someone whose NEWTs were a year and more away.

Ron mouthed 'Run! Save yourself!' when Hermione wasn't looking.

"Thrilling," Harry said morosely, and then sharply, "I'm not moping."

Hermione looked as if she would have liked to challenge this claim, but she pursed her lips and maintained a tactful silence.

"It's nice to have you here," said Ginny in muted tones, dropping her pen and going scarlet as she spoke.

"Thanks, Ginny," Harry said, touched. Ginny went scarlet again.

"At least sit away from the fire," Hermione urged. "You've been sitting beside it for hours. You must be roasting."

"We could go out and have a few laps of the Quidditch pitch," Ron suggested hopefully.

"Ron, that Herbology homework is already overdue," Hermione said, fixing him with a menacing eye. "You're doing it if I have to tie you to the chair."

"Very kinky, Granger. Who knew you had hidden depths?"

The easy, drawling voice brought Harry's head up with a jerk.

Draco was leaning against the open Gryffindor entrance. His hair was a little mussed and his face a little flushed, but he was still dressed up and his expression was as cool as ever.

"Malfoy," Harry said, and was startled himself to hear the undisguised pleasure in his tone.

Draco inclined his head. "It was dull at the party," he explained. "I was bored. I came to see if you still wanted to do something."

Harry couldn't help smiling.

"Sure - of course. I'm coming now."


Draco flatly refused to go outside in the clothes he was wearing.

"I'd catch a chill," he informed Harry reproachfully. "It's a miracle I didn't die from that little field expedition. I'm fragile, you know."

Harry remembered this so-called fragile boy hurling shot-put balls at people and maintained a tactful silence.

"No," decided. "We can go to my room. There won't be many Slytherins around for hours."

So they did. And Harry was outraged.

"This place is really nice! You mean to tell me all Slytherin prefects get these?"

It was nice. All decorated in Slytherin green, of course, with a desk, and an actual fireplace, and-

"You have two wardrobes! That's ridiculous!"

Draco scowled. "I know. I've told Snape, I can't be expected to live without three, but will he listen? The man has a heart of stone."

Harry threw himself into the soft armchair opposite Draco, and gave him a long incredulous look.

"You don't need three wardrobes. Nobody needs three wardrobes."

Draco made a face at him. "Oh, what would you know, you sartorial disaster?"

"I know that thanks to you, I no longer need even one wardrobe."

"Stop harping on that, Potter." Draco stretched. "I said I'd take you to Hogsmeade and tell you what to buy, and I will."

"You're not telling me what to buy."

Draco pushed out his lower lip. "Fine."

"But we could go to Hogsmeade tomorrow, if you like." Harry's voice was quite casual.

Draco looked suddenly colder, his features arrested in their gradual relaxation.

"I can't. I'm meeting my mother for our little get-together."


Harry swallowed, trying to fight the urge to ask Are you all right, which Draco wouldn't appreciate, and fighting down his own disappointment.

Which was when Draco, as seemed to be his wont, threw off his calculations completely.

"You can come with us, if you like," Draco said casually.

Harry hesitated. He recalled a woman with a rather haughty expression, and the fact that this woman was Lucius Malfoy's widow. He was extremely doubtful about meeting Narcissa Malfoy again.

But on the other hand, he had nothing else to do... and a day without Draco seemed extraordinarily unappealing.

"All right, then," he agreed cautiously.

Draco gave him a brief flashing smile, and then leaned back, the fire playing on his hair, and suggested a card game.

That was how Harry came to be trailing awkwardly in Draco's wake as Draco strode over to meet the woman waiting in Hogsmeade square.

She was smaller than Harry had remembered.

"Hello, mother," Draco said. "This is the friend I said I was bringing."

Narcissa Malfoy looked over at Harry, and blinked.

Then she said blankly, "That's Harry Potter."

"Full marks for observation, mother," Draco observed calmly.

Narcissa smiled and held out her hand to Harry, who took it feeling rather stunned.

"Does that mean I'm not going to receive my next installment of Why I Hate That Sod Potter, Volume IV, Part VII? What a shame. I found it gripping."

Narcissa was not much like her son, who resembled his father so closely. Her hair was golden, several shades darker, and her eyes were a cool blue. Her skin was lightly tanned.

Yet she had a certain refined delicacy about her features that made her look like him when she spoke or moved, and her slow rich smile was very much his.

Harry saw what Draco had meant about his mother. Her eyes were a little chill, and her manner with Draco - gracious but slightly distant - was just the same as her manner with Harry. Still...

"I'm pleased to meet you," he said, wondering if he meant it.

"Pleasure's all mine," Narcissa replied drily. "You seem capable of forming coherent sentences, which is more than I can say for poor little Vincent and Gregory."


Clearly, this was a favourite topic of Mrs. Malfoy's.

"Draco has sorry taste in friends," she continued. "Present company excepted, of course. That Pansy child always looked at me as if I was the disreputable girlfriend her son had brought home, and I think that Blaise boy was trying to seduce at least one of us."

Harry was coming to realise that Malfoy's flair for shocking conversation was also inherited.

"Well, boys," Narcissa said, "where do you want to go? I am entirely at your disposal."

Draco's eyes narrowed in a calculating manner. Harry took an alarmed step backwards.

"We can't appear in public with him looking like that," Draco announced.


Robe Wardrobe had been an extremely exclusive clothing store for years, tailored to meet the needs of every wizard needing a tailor. Nevertheless, Harry noticed that the attendants fluttered around the Malfoys with especial anxiety as they entered the shop. Draco took this with bored indifference, as if it was clearly his due. Narcissa smiled discreetly and sailed onwards.

Harry wished he had his invisibility cloak when Draco dived for the racks of clothing and began to talk in a loud, imperious voice.

"Pretty poor selection, of course. Oh no, that would make you look even more hideous. Take that yellow away from me and never let my eyes behold it again."

Narcissa gave Harry that calm, gracious-hostess smile.

"Draco's always been interested in clothes. It rather worried me when he was younger."

Harry tried to exchange pleasantries with her. "And it stopped worrying you when he started pulling girls' pigtails in the school yard?"

Narcissa looked thoughtful.

"I don't recall Draco ever pulling girls' pigtails. He did knock people unconscious with his bucket and spade, though. He was never one to do things by halves."

"I was a charming child," Draco put in. "A delight to meet. So polite. So precocious. And of course, so very pretty." He shoved a pile of clothes at Harry. "Try those on for a start."

"His tutors kept resigning," Narcissa murmured, more in the tones of one speaking about a child she had heard about than one she had given birth to. She indicated the changing cubicles to Harry. "They said he was an overbearing little monster. And he bit, too."

Harry walked hesitatingly into the cubicle. For a start, he wasn't used to getting changed in cubicles. What's more, it was off-putting to have Draco throwing things in constantly.

It was like being caught in a rain of clothes. And the clothes...

"Malfoy, these jeans are not my size."

"Of course they are," Draco called back blithely. "It's the ones you're wearing that aren't."

"Malfoy, none of these clothes are my size!"

"Potter, trust me."

"I will not!"

"Potter, don't you want all the girls to fancy you?"

"I - what-" Harry stopped. "Will they?"

"Well, no." Draco's voice was pragmatic. "But we can't Polyjuice you into me for any length of time, so this will have to do."

At length, the rain of clothes and the sounds of Draco carelessly insulting the merchandise and the staff of the shop ceased. Harry was left with the difficulty of getting into the stupid clothes.

"Potter, can't you even dress yourself?" Draco shouted. "Get a move on, or I'm coming in there to help you."

Harry got dressed faster than he would have thought humanly possible. Then he came out, unsure about the entire thing.

"Very nice, Harry," Narcissa complimented him.

Draco drew his brows together.

"Barely adequate, Potter. Next!"

He made Harry try on every item of clothing he'd thrown in. And then, to crown the indignity, he made him buy them all.


Narcissa and Harry were walking on the Hogsmeade pier by the lake as the sun set. Harry felt exhausted, laden down by bags... and rather happy. Draco was nowhere in sight.

"I presume this odd camaraderie developed from the incident at the Triwizard Tournament?" inquired Narcissa abruptly.

She had all Draco's tact, as well.

"Er. Yes," Harry answered.

"Mother, don't start interrogating him," Draco drawled, appearing out of nowhere with a blood-flavoured lollipop.

"Where did you get that?" Harry asked suspiciously.


"Researching what?"

Draco's smile was bright. "The phrase 'easy as taking candy from a baby.'"



"Calm yourselves," Draco told them dismissively, waving a hand towards the sweets stand at the bottom of the pier. "I said that for dramatic effect. Hey, I have an idea."

"Harry, you seem a sweet, well-spoken boy," Narcissa remarked. "You really shouldn't associate with people like my son."

Draco circled them, still smiling, then leaned back against the pier railing.

"You two could get married," he suggested. "Then you could club together in your efforts at raising me like a decent human being. Come on, Potter, you're a hero and all, you like hopeless tasks."

"Not tasks that hopeless, I don't."

Narcissa and Draco laughed.

"I think the house elves got most of the brunt of raising you," Narcissa commented lightly.

The smile slipped from Draco's face.

"Yes," he said distantly. "I remember."

He boosted himself up onto the railing, and began to attempt walking down to the bottom.

Narcissa stood looking after her son. For the first time, Harry noticed how cold her blue eyes were.

"I was never a maternal woman," she said. "I could never be very interested in children."

Harry was silent, unsure of what he could offer in return.

"What interest I had, Lucius discouraged. He didn't want his son growing up weak." Narcissa's clear voice was untouched by emotion. "It would have been all right, if Draco had been like either of us. But Draco has always been a little...fierce. He feels too much, and he isn't any good at concealing what he feels."

Harry personally thought that Draco was quite talented at being enigmatic. Still, he recalled Lucius Malfoy's cold voice, the first time he had heard it, advising his son that it was not wise to appear other than fond of Harry Potter. Draco had never paid a blind bit of attention to that.

He recognised too the difference between Narcissa and Draco's smiles. There was a shade of warmth behind Draco's, a passion that this woman did not possess.

Considering his environment, perhaps Draco had grown up rather demonstrative.

"Lucius always tried to repress that," Narcissa mused, "which made him worse, naturally. You'll have noticed that Draco isn't really receptive to moulding."

Harry murmured something more polite than 'That's glaringly obvious.'

"And now - Lucius is dead, and we are both left without him, and Draco thinks that... he, well. He loved him," she concluded. "And I let him love him. It's easier that way."

Harry looked over at Draco.

"He loves you," he said impulsively. "I could tell."

Narcissa's wry expression reminded him forcibly of another face.

"Poor Harry," she said lightly. "Anxious mothers burdening you with their woes. This can hardly be fun for you."

"I don't mind," mumbled Harry.

"It's cold up here on this rail," Draco yelled down at them. "When's dinner?"

He wore that imperious air again, the air Harry had always presumed came from always getting what he wanted. Now he thought that perhaps Draco could only get what he wanted if he acted like he didn't care.

"When would you like it, Draco?" asked his mother.

"Immediately!" Draco paused to consider. "And hot chocolate."

Harry shook his head of doubts, replacing them with that amused incredulity which always followed him when he was with Draco.

Narcissa laid her hand on Harry's arm.

"I'm glad you're Draco's friend," she said. "He wanted it so much."

Harry was looking up at Draco, who was pushing back hair so fine it tangled and untangled itself in the wind. He saw Narcissa Malfoy's delicate build in the slimness of his wrists, and the structure of his face and throat.

He also saw a curiously indomitable look in eyes that refracted to silver light beneath the pale sky.

"Sorry?" Harry asked her, a little distracted. "What was that?"

"Never mind," said Narcissa.

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