Second Place- Alternate Universe
Third Place - Romance

Underwater Light


Chapter Eight

Calming Storms

If you want my sympathy

Just open your heart to me

And I'll be whatever you ever need

Harry was half asleep under a tree, taking refuge from the blazing sun.

The whole week had been a signal from approaching summer, a heat wave that made everyone remove as many clothes as possible and hide in the shade. One or two classes had been held outside, and Hermione had been coaxing Ron into fetching her cold drinks from the kitchen all week.

It had begun with that evening of cards in Draco's room, and had gone on in that soothing vein all week. The heat had relaxed everyone a little, and Harry just felt... more at ease recently.

He didn't analyse it. He just shut his eyes and basked, and thought about how funny it was to see Draco glaring at everyone's tans as if they had mortally offended him.

Right on cue, Draco hurled himself to the ground beside him.

"Potter," he said. "You lazy sod, have you been lying here all morning?"

"Hmm. More or less," Harry answered. "Ron and Hermione were here a while ago, but they wandered off."

"Snogging behind the broom shed," Draco said promptly. "Believe me, I just came in from Quidditch practice. Oh, my eyes. I was already tired; I did not need to see that."

Harry glanced over at Draco, who was lying on his back with one arm flung over his eyes. He thought it was typical that Draco had thrown himself into a graceful attitude.

"You must be tired," he observed dryly. "Your hair's a mess."

"I hate you, Potter," Draco informed him. "Have I made that clear recently? I just really don't like you at all. You are so one to talk. One day I'm going to lose it, seize your head and brush your hair properly."

"Hmm. Looking forward to it."

He glanced over and saw that Draco really was tired. His breathing was slightly accelerated and the collar of his Quidditch robes was open. Even his neck was flushed.

"Quidditch practice tough?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Draco answered innocently. "It was great. We're going to crush you in the final."

The whole school took for granted that the Quidditch final would be between Slytherin and Gryffindor. That was how it usually was, and Gryffindor had won for the last two years. Draco never let this inconvenient detail faze him in the slightest.

It was so like Draco to refuse to acknowledge defeat. The team was composed of his court, and so it was a one-man show. Draco never, Harry reflected, let slip the smallest suggestion that he could not run it all, and run it superbly. Draco's problem was that he couldn't imagine being anything but totally self-sufficient.

"You wish," Harry returned. Draco made a face at him.

The leaves above them cast a shifting pattern of light and shadows on the ground. Harry squinted up at the blurred green and gold. It was such a calm day, there wasn't even a breeze, and he thought he could be quite happy relaxing here with Draco for a few hours.

He hadn't seen Draco last night, as Draco'd been on guard duty. Which was probably another reason he was so tired, not that Draco would ever admit it.

Draco shifted on the ground. "I wish I had a cool drink," he grumbled. "I wish I was at home. We have proper house elves there." He propped himself up on an elbow. "I don't suppose you'd consider...?"

That gave Harry an idea.

"Get up," he said.

"Potter!" Draco wailed. "The whole point of you fetching the drink is that I won't have to move. That's the beauty of it."

Harry folded his arms and looked implacable.

"Oh, come on, Potter! I'm on my back. I'm all sweaty. Don't make me beg."

"Don't make me carry you."

Draco gave Harry a slit-eyed and evil glare. He remained prone for a moment, and then sat up grumpily.

"Will there be drinks?"

"I promise."

"Oh, all right."


The kitchens made Draco laugh.

"I'm below stairs," he said, rather gleefully. "Look, it's an oven. More drinks, slaves."

Hermione would have fainted if she'd heard him ordering the house elves around. Harry himself winced at it. But he noticed that the house elves were giving Draco approving looks as they hurried to do his bidding, as if finally someone who acted properly had arrived. Harry hid a smile.

Draco was sitting cross-legged on a table, with several empty glasses and an assortment of strange foodstuffs around him.

Harry leaned against the table.

"I had no idea the blood-flavoured lollipops were just the tip of the iceberg."

"I will not pander to your plebeian expectations," Draco said loftily. "People used to eat stuffed dormice. I think I can eat icing sugar without it causing all this ill-bred commentary."

He ate another spoonful and took another swig of pumpkin juice to prove his point. At some stage Harry was going to mention that the icing sugar had left a light dusting on Draco's sticky mouth.

"So, Potter, feeling stressed?"

"Er, no," Harry said, distracted . "Why?"

Draco waved his spoon. "The third task being moved back to May, of course. It's April now. Pressure getting to you yet? Going to crack, Potter? Going to lose it?"

"Yeah, I'm a nervous wreck. Pass the pumpkin juice."

Draco hugged it protectively to his chest. "There's no need to drown your sorrows, Potter. Drink is never the answer."

It was lucky Draco was so tired. Harry went for the juice and tried to pry it out of his hands, ignoring Draco's small sound of protest and pushing him backwards. It only took a brief struggle, and then Draco was on his back on the table and Harry had the pumpkin juice. Draco blinked up at him reproachfully.

"You great Gryffindor bully." He made no effort to sit up, but simply looked up at the lamps, which drizzled soft light onto his eyes and hair. "I hope you get eaten by a monster in the maze."

Harry wondered whether Draco was actually concerned about him. It was hard to tell.

He liked to think so, though, and he tried to be reassuring.

"I'm not too worried."

"Yeah? Got your eyes firmly set on the glory?" Draco finally sat up and pushed Harry back, his eyes gleaming. "I know how much you love having your name in the paper, Potter. Imagine the finish line-"

"There is no finish line-"

"Don't bother me with inconsequential details. The finish line, the cheering crowds, the swooning women." Draco affected a voice alarmingly like Ginny's. "Harry Potter, we luuurve you!"

"Shut up, Malfoy." Harry really wasn't laughing.

Draco clasped his hands to his heart. "But all I want is an autograph, a lock of your hair, to have your love child-"

"Do you know how annoying you are?" Still definitely not laughing.

Draco gave up and leaned back on his elbows, flashing him a smug smile. "You don't think I'm annoying. You think I'm great."

Harry raised his eyebrows. "How do you figure that?"

"The second task, idiot. I was the one who woke up with a mouthful of filthy water and a nice little guarantee of what you thought of me." Draco fished for the marmalade, which Harry really hoped he wasn't planning to eat with icing sugar. There would be even more on his mouth then. "So you claim it's not glory you want. What would you like?"

Harry studied him.

"I'd quite like a guarantee myself," he said.

Draco gave him a startled glance, and in the pause Harry looked at his watch.

"We're going to be late," he added in sudden alarm.

"What for?" Draco asked, distracted.

"The thing in Hogsmeade I wanted us to do. I told you about it yesterday."

"You forgot to mention what precisely it was."

"It doesn't matter. It's fun, I promise. Let's go."

"To Hogsmeade? In my Quidditch robes? Looking like this?" Draco looked scandalised. "Surely you jest."

"Come on, Malfoy."

Draco raised his eyes to heaven. "Oh, give me twenty minutes." He slid easily off the table and made his way toward the door. "One more thing, Potter. If the Gryffindor idea of fun is cleaning out bed pans in St Mungo's, I'm shutting you up in a cell and going home."

All right, so Harry did laugh then. But by that time Draco was out the door, so it didn't count.

Harry looked helplessly at the utter mess Draco had made of the table.

"Look, can I help-"

"Harry Potter is not to think of doing work for a house elf," Winky said in horror, hurrying forward. She and a team of elves began to clear the table at lightning speed. Harry looked around, thinking vaguely that he could while away the time saying hello to Dobby.

To his surprise Dobby was standing in a corner, and his face remained troubled when Harry greeted him.

"Dobby is thinking that was Master Draco," he stated in noncommittal tones.

Harry had forgotten Dobby must have known Draco.

"Yeah," he said cautiously. "Why didn't you come and say hello?"

Dobby didn't answer him directly. All he said was, "He is looking just like his father."

And suddenly Harry didn't feel like talking to Dobby anymore.

"You're wrong," he informed him coldly. "He's nothing like his father."

Dobby said nothing.


Harry ended up waiting for Draco at the bottom of the Hogwarts steps. Draco came sauntering down them after half an hour, wearing his white jumper and giving Harry a disarming smile as he came.

You see, Harry thought to an absent Dobby. He's not like his father. He'd never be like him.

"Let's go," Harry said.

He saw that Draco wasn't the only one who had remembered about the third task being bumped up when a couple of reporters came hurrying up to them as they went into Hogsmeade.

"Harry, would you like to share-"

"Harry, could you tell us-"

"No thank you," Harry said tiredly. "I'm just here for an outing with my friend. Excuse us."

Their eyes lit on Draco, and after a whispered conversation in which Harry distinctly heard the words 'Friend?' and 'Lucius Malfoy's son?' they turned their assault upon Draco.

"Mr Malfoy! Can you tell us about the second task-"

"We'd be prepared to offer gold-"

Draco tilted his head at Harry, smiling wickedly.

"How much, exactly?" he inquired.

"Malfoy!" Harry said in horror, and dragged him away.

Draco sulked as Harry led him off. "I was planning to make up a very amusing story," he complained. "It would have electrified the wizarding world. How would you have felt about having an illicit affair with a teacher?"

"Malfoy, you are a very bad person," Harry informed him severely.

Draco laughed. "Is there a chance I can have a blood-flavoured lollipop before we do whatever it is you want to do?"

"No," Harry said sternly. "The cruiser will go any minute now."

Draco stopped laughing.

Despite the fact he was squinting against the sun, despite Draco's always fair skin, Harry could see quite clearly that he had gone pale.

"The cruiser?" he repeated.


The great lake that stretched to the forest, Hogwarts, and Hogsmeade had only been used for necessary transportation - and of course, the first years' terrifying arrival - for centuries. Until someone had realised that the wizard tourists who flocked to the last non-Muggle settlement in Britain would lap up something like this.

The cruiser, like all magical boats, was powered by a simple spell. It had extra enchantments on it so nobody had to steer and, no matter what the weather, it was always a smooth voyage. Taking a cruise was still a popular tourist activity, and most Hogwarts students had gone at least once.

Harry hadn't been since he'd gone with Ron and Hermione in fifth year. He'd thought it might be nice to go with Draco.

Now the look on Draco's face was fast convincing him otherwise.

"You know, we don't have to go," he said, hurrying after Draco.

Draco was striding towards the dock, his mouth set in a thin painful line.

"I want to go," he answered, his voice hard. "Why wouldn't I want to go? I'm not afraid of a damned boat. Irrational fear is the worst kind, my father used to say. It means you're a stupid coward."

"That's - nice, Malfoy, but-"

"Potter. You wanted to go and we're going, and that's the end of it. And now could you please talk about something else!"

Harry was sure he caught an almost desperate glint in Draco's eyes. He felt wretched.

"I thought it might be fun to go together," he muttered, in apology.

Draco was clearly trying to calm down, though his smile did not come without effort. "We went together once before," he commented.

If finding out with horror that Draco was aboard after the ship had launched counted as going together. Harry recalled standing on the deck trying politely to ignore the passionate fifteen-year-old embraces of Ron and Hermione, who had paired up earlier that very week. He had turned away, trying to look at anything but that, and had seen yet another couple.

Draco Malfoy had disengaged himself slightly from Pansy, who then started work on his neck, and Harry had recognised him at the same time as Draco's eyes lit on him and his upper lip curled slightly in distaste. A couple of minutes later, Draco had strolled by with Pansy clinging to his side and made a loud comment speculating on how Ron could have afforded the fare. Ron hadn't heard. Harry, left out, miserable, and bloody furious, had leaped at him.

The ensuing ferocious tussle on the planks of the deck had only been halted by the furious ferryman threatening to feed them to the giant squid.

Harry smiled. "I'd forgotten."

It was funny how things worked out.

Draco hadn't been bothered by the boat then. He had looked relaxed and happy, actually, in the brief instant before he spotted Harry. Harry supposed he'd been happy to be with Pansy. They had gone out for six months of fifth year, and stayed friends afterwards. Draco had never been with anyone else for half as long.

Harry suppressed a sudden impulse to ask about Pansy. Draco didn't look in the mood to discuss past romances. He was clearly nerving himself to perform some sort of ordeal as Harry got the tickets. Harry wished he'd never suggested this whole stupid thing.

Draco's lips were drained of colour.

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Of course I'm sure," Draco said sharply. "I'm fine."

He stormed up the ramp. Harry noticed that he didn't let himself look at the water until he was safely on deck.

Once he did, he gripped the rail so tightly that his knuckles went white.

"Malfoy, are you all right?"

"Yes!" It was almost a shout.

Harry rested his hands against the rail, standing beside Draco and trying to offer some sort of comfort. Little beads of perspiration were standing out on Draco's forehead.

The boat jerked into motion. Draco grabbed Harry's wrist in a death grip.

As the boat moved, Harry's wrist felt like it was going to be broken in a vice. Draco's face was white as bone, and he didn't seem to notice that he was grasping so tight. His whole body shuddered as the boat drifted out onto the lake.

Then the boat rocked, just the tiniest bit, and Draco's nerve broke.

His body convulsed over the rail, and his face was ashen when he looked up.

"I think I'm going to be sick," Draco said between his teeth.

Harry supported him as he made for the bathroom, wincing every time the boat jerked. And he remembered with a painful clarity holding Draco up at the time of the second task, because he was unable to support his own weight.

He should have thought about that. But things had been - different then. He had regarded the whole business of helping Draco Malfoy as an unpleasant necessity.

He hadn't been concerned.

Halfway there, Draco stopped and gripped the rails around the deck again. He swallowed several times and then spoke, his voice strained with the effort to keep it even.

"I don't - I won't be sick. Just - get me off the boat, Potter."

"But the boat's-"


Harry looked at Draco's face.

"Okay," he said, trying to be gentle. "Fine. Just - hold on a minute there. I promise, I'll take care of it."

Draco managed a nod. Harry whirled on the ferryman.

"Bring us back," he said in a tone that brooked no argument.

"Look, I can't-" The man stopped. "Hey! You're Harry Potter."

Harry tried to put a lid on that familiar exasperation. He needed to get Draco off this boat, it didn't matter what the hell his name was, it wasn't like it could help...

He paused as an idea struck. Clearly, he'd been spending too much time with Draco.

"Yes, that's right," he said slowly. "I'm Harry Potter. And it's very urgent that my friend and I get off this boat."


"You did that very well," Draco said in a tired voice. "Maybe you could have made a Slytherin after all."

"Thrill me, why don't you."

Draco only just managed a smile. They were sitting on the porch of one of the little shops around Hogsmeade, which was thankfully closed for lunchtime. Draco was hugging his knees, apparently too sick and miserable to care about appearances.

He must be feeling really bad.

"I hate those things," Draco said, vehemently and at last. "I hate the bloody spells. They make the boat move out onto the waters and it's as bad as being in the water because anyone can counteract that simple spell, and then you're helpless."

There was a pause. Harry looked over at Draco and tried to come up with something to say.

Draco added darkly, "I can't stand being helpless."

Harry felt the impulse to - oh, reach out and clasp Draco's hand, or something. But Harry was no good at that sort of gesture, and in any case Draco never seemed to welcome them.

"It'll be all right," he said instead. Which was a stupid thing to say.

Draco glanced briefly up at him, a gleam of awareness through his eyelashes, and then his eyes seemed to focus on something else. He seemed suddenly and utterly unaware of Harry.

Oddly, the fact that he spoke to him reinforced this impression.

"My father liked to go out yachting on the lake."

"You have a yacht?"

Even when Draco was in this condition, he could act superior.

"We're Malfoys. We also owned the lake." His gaze was still intent on the middle distance. "He used to take my mother and me out on the lake in the holidays. He'd - go over Quidditch strategies or school marks with me. It was - fun."

It didn't sound like fun to Harry. Still, it wasn't like Draco had been raised lovingly. Perhaps Lucius Malfoy taking an interest in Draco had been the closest thing Draco had experienced to affection.

"It was fifth year - in the Christmas holidays." Draco said it with difficulty. "Mother was sick and she couldn't come. So it was just me and my father. And the - the boat stopped moving."

Draco looked unusually small there on the porch. Without that invincibly self-assured air, he seemed very young.

"And then there was a storm. The sky was black and the water all around us was wild but the boat never moved and... My father told me not to be frightened."

Harry had known Lucius Malfoy well enough to be sure that this had been a command and not reassurance offered from father to son. He could see the magical storm closing around the doomed boat, the sky bruised above them, the younger Draco frantic on the deck, and that cold order ringing out.

The strained edge to Draco's voice made him sound as though he might have liked to cry if he were someone else, in a different world.

"There were words and someone was there and... the boat just broke apart. I was holding onto a plank and screaming but I still heard - I still heard it." He swallowed painfully. "The Killing Curse. I heard it and I saw the light through the storm, and..."

Draco obviously couldn't continue. He just kept his eyes fixed on that private vision, kept his face still as he struggled to maintain Malfoy composure.

And I wasn't even sorry for him, Harry thought. I didn't ask how it happened. I didn't care. And he saw it all, saw a father he loved being murdered and-

He would have done anything, just then, to make it right. He had the sudden fierce impulse to... oh, grab Draco, hold onto him as if he could make things okay by holding on tight enough, burrow his head into his shoulder and frame some sort of apology against his neck. But he hadn't the first idea of how to go about doing something like that, and he knew Draco would be appalled anyway.

Instead, he reached out and touched Draco's hair lightly.

Draco didn't pull sharply away as Harry had thought he might. He just sat there, blind to the real world, and kept talking in a relentless rush, as if he had been thinking about this for two years and absolutely had to let it spill out now.

"My father was killed by You-Know-Who. And people say he supported him, and I think he did at first, because he didn't like the Muggleborn, but he must have seen You-Know-Who was mad and going too far. My father always wanted wizards to be respected, but I knew him. He would have drawn the line at massacre, at innocent children getting snatched and families being destroyed. He must have turned against You-Know-Who. I mean, people don't kill their followers. It makes sense."

Normal, sane people don't kill their followers, no, Harry thought. But targeting children, murdering the Muggleborn and planning world domination - why should we expect Voldemort's actions to make sense?

He didn't speak the words aloud. He just brushed Draco's hair gently under his hand, trying to think of what he could say.

Did you know your father, Draco?

Harry had known Lucius Malfoy. The man who would have 'drawn the line at massacre' had given a child a book that was meant to kill dozens of innocent students, and had stood around Harry himself in a circle of Death Eaters and laughed as Harry faced Voldemort.

The first time Harry had heard the Killing Curse uttered against a human being had been in a graveyard where Lucius Malfoy had appeared and offered his loyalty to the one who had spoken it.

But Draco, who could usually see so clearly, obviously couldn't bear to face facts about his father. He couldn't know anything about this.

And Harry couldn't bear to tell him. What if it had been Harry's father who had died, a father who had lived long enough for Harry to love him? Harry would have wanted to believe the best about his father, too.

Besides - Draco had told him all this trusting him.

What could he possibly say?

"Oh, Draco..." It was a low cry of pain.

Draco smiled faintly, and Harry realised it was the first time he had ever called him Draco.

There was no displeasure in the smile, so Harry thought he could keep on doing it.

"I'm so sorry," said Harry, which he considered an extremely pathetic thing to say.

Draco had stopped shivering like a wounded animal, though, so Harry realised he must not be doing so badly.

He wouldn't have minded sitting there with Draco for a while more, but he could see the shopkeeper coming down the road to open up and giving the two loiterers a stern glance.

"Should we go back?" Draco asked wearily.

"Actually," Harry said, "I'm quite hungry."

The corner of Draco's mouth lifted. "Bring me near food and I'll kill you."

Harry laughed. "Well, I thought I might buy a sandwich and we could go down to the lake-"

"Are you completely crazy, Potter?"

"You could throw stones at the lake and taunt it because it can't get you now."

Draco made a face at him, but seemed to consider it.

"Yes," he decided eventually. "I think I'd like that."

Draco leaned forward on his knees for another moment, as if he was preparing to bear a load.

And Harry only knew that he wanted to carry it for him, and he felt a pang because telling him was the closest Draco would ever come to leaning on him.

Zabini and Pansy Parkinson walked by, and gave Harry and Draco an odd look. Harry realised that he was still stroking Draco's hair

Draco pretended not to notice them. Harry hadn't had his practice with deceit.

"Do they - do they know?"

Draco folded his arms defensively across his chest. "They know my father died. I - no, I haven't told them anything more."

Really, it was wrong to feel pleased about something while Draco was still clearly upset.

"I used to argue with him all the time," Draco said softly. "He was just trying to help me be the best I could be, and I was proud of him, but I resented him and I didn't - I never liked criticism."

Harry remembered again what Lucius Malfoy had actually been like.

Draco wanted to remember it this way. Love always distorted memories of the dead, Harry thought, always prevented any kind of accurate judgment and left you mourning for a fantasy. And those who loved you couldn't take the dream away, and in the end an accurate judgment would be cruelty.

Draco looked so tired and woebegone in that instant that Harry said, suppressing an ignoble feeling of disappointment,

"You're not to do anything tonight. You need to get some sleep. You're going straight to bed when we get home."

Draco sneered, that mock sneer which Harry often took as a smile these days. "Ooh, yes, Mother."

"Shut up and come get a sandwich with me, Draco."

He glanced over at Draco to see if it was still all right to call him that. He didn't appear to have noticed.

"Will you tuck me up in bed and tell me a story?" Draco inquired.

Draco was laughing up at Harry by now, and Harry felt both reassured and regretful about the return of that confident mocking look.

He sighed and offered a hand to help Draco up.


"Can Flying with the Cannons really be that fascinating the thirty-second time, Harry?" Hermione teased.

"Hmm?" Harry looked up. "Well, it's a very good book."

Actually, he had loaned it to Draco last week and that brat had returned it filled with withering scribbles in the margins. Harry had been flicking through them and smiling at his unmitigated nerve.

Not that he'd lied. It was a very good book.

Hermione smiled at him affectionately, her dark eyes gleaming in the firelight. Her own book was resting open in her lap, and Harry thought Hermione was relaxing, because it wasn't a textbook.

Harry looked around at the common room, feeling affection for them all sweep over him. Things had been slightly better lately. Despite the terrifying situation, everyone was being strong, and just now, they looked happy.

Dean was laughing quietly with Ginny as he amused her by imitating Professor Snape's handwriting in a love letter addressed to Sirius. Ron was drawing a Divination chart that had been due in last week. Lavender and Parvati were making turbans in an ill-fated attempt to look more like Professor Trelawney, and Neville appeared to be trying to mate Trevor and an uninterested lady toad.

Then Ron said, in a voice that tried and failed to be entirely joking, "It's good to have you back here. What with you always running around with bloody Malfoy, I was starting to forget what you look like."

Of course it was no big deal. Harry knew that Ron disliked Draco, and it was fair enough considering Draco despised Ron, and it wasn't something Harry wanted to get into... But Harry suddenly and vividly recalled Draco's distraught face earlier, and felt that same pang of protectiveness.

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't talk like that about Draco," he snapped.

Across the room, Ginny stopped laughing. Hermione glanced up from her book, looking troubled.

Ron's eyebrows drew together.

"Who?" he said.

"You know his name," Harry said, making an attempt to soften his voice that was not all that successful.

"Oh, I'm so sorry if I said anything that might offend your new best friend," Ron said, bridling. "Since we all know how polite and gentlemanly he is."

"I know he sometimes acts like an idiot," Harry returned, his voice even, "but I still don't want to hear you insult him."

The Ron of a few years ago might have thrown something at Harry's head. This Ron took a few deep breaths, and said something that Harry thought was much worse.

"Look, it worries us, all right? We care about you, you stupid git. And I don't want to see you getting too friendly with someone we can't trust."

Of course Harry cared about Ron too, and he was almost softened and he almost replied gently, but there was - that instinct to shield Draco again, and almost was not enough to stop him.

"What do you mean, someone we can't trust?"

"What do you think I mean?" Ron spat. "If there's a spy in Hogwarts turning over children to the Dark Lord, who else could it be but Draco Malfoy?"

There was sudden ferment all around them.

Younger Gryffindors began to whisper excitedly. Ginny made a small sound of distress, staring over at Harry's face. Dean and Hermione both said something quiet and sensible and totally disregarded. Parvati stood up and announced loudly that nobody should make that kind of accusation. Neville made a clumsy effort to defuse the situation by wailing something about spoiling the toads' mood.

Harry heard, with an odd distinctness, Lavender leaning over and telling Neville softly, "I think they're both boys. It's not going to work."

Harry also felt, with strange detached fury, all the blood drain out of his face.

His voice was low, but extremely cold.

"How dare you."

Ron's face was flushed but resolute. "It's only common sense, Harry," he said angrily. "Think about-"

"I don't want to hear it!" Harry yelled. Silence fell around the common room, and he breathed in and forced his voice down. "You can bloody well take that back."

Ron clearly had no intention of doing so.

"It has to be someone in the Council," he argued. "Surely even you must suspect-"

Harry glared at him.

"Apart from Hermione - I'd suspect anyone else in the Council first."

He stepped back, feeling blindly for the door.

"I don't feel like seeing you again tonight," he said, instead of hitting him.

"Where are you going?" Ron demanded furiously.

"Dammit, Ron," he said, turning away. "Where do you think I'm going?"


Harry stormed out of the Gryffindor rooms without another word. Ron's voice kept ringing in his ears and that protective instinct was screaming inside him and Draco was in bed and he'd have to brave the other Slytherins but he had to, absolutely had to see him right now...

And he walked and he walked and then - he met Draco, emerging from the dungeons.

He just stood there, feeling a wash of unexpected relief, and Draco's eyes opened wide as he saw him. Startled and silvery and making him smile.

"Hi there."

Draco looked as if he was searching for something witty to say, but obviously he had been caught off guard. Finally he rolled his eyes and shoved his hands in his pockets.


"No socialising with the Slytherins tonight, then?" Harry inquired.

"But of course. Be my guest, run off and seduce Pansy. I fear I can't accompany you, I'm somewhat persona non grata down there just now."

Harry opted for staying where he was.

"I, um, had a bit of a fight with Ron," he said. "I don't think any of the Gryffindors want me back there."

"In that case, go and die in a corner somewhere. I'm off to socialise with dear old Weasley and Granger, since I presume I still retain the status of a prince among them."

"The Prince of Darkness, maybe."

Draco grinned. "Royal personage of the year, in my opinion."

Harry began to walk down the steps, and Draco fell into step with him.

"So, do they all hate you now? Going to burn you? Going to force you to join the Hufflepuffs because burning is too merciful an end?"

"Yes, Draco. Yes they are," Harry said. "And then everything will be all right in the morning."

He wasn't repeating any of that madness to Draco. Besides - just now, back with him, it felt like things might be all right in the morning. He could forgive Ron, who didn't know him, couldn't, or he would never have said anything so stupid.

"The morning? If you are under the bizarre delusion, Potter, that I'm wandering draughty corridors with you until morning, you're going to be severely disappointed."

"OK then. How about the Potions classroom?"

Draco just smiled.

"The rumours are all lies," he said.

Harry blinked. "What?"

"All the stories about you, Potter. Poor wee orphan with the fragile humility going on, weeping about how nobody loves him. You expect me to hang about in vile dungeon classrooms for the sake of keeping you company. Do you realise I was raised in the lap of luxury? What an ego."

"Draco. You live in the dungeons, you have absolutely no right to talk about anyone else's ego and I'm sure it wouldn't do you any harm to be briefly in the lap of - oh, something other than luxury."

Draco's name still tasted unfamiliar in his mouth.

"I like luxury," Draco protested. "Luxury and I are on very close terms."

He followed Harry all the same, and when the door to the classroom defeated Harry Draco leaned down and whispered something to the lock.

"Password," he explained as the door swung open. "Professor Snape gave it to me when I was giving Goyle Potions tutorials."

"So that's how he passed," Harry mused, wandering in. The room seemed much less sinister when a class was not about to happen. "You must be an amazing tutor."

Draco walked in and slid easily onto Snape's desk, pulling up his legs and resting his chin on his knees. Now Harry was never going to be able to see Snape making up a Potion on that desk without visualising a grinning blond boy there instead.

"I have many talents."

"I'm sure you think so." Harry leaned against the wall by the desk, watching as Draco lifted an eyebrow in mock outrage.

"You'd be amazed at all the things I can do." He paused. "Was this fight with Weasley about me?"

Harry paused in turn.

"Maybe," he replied at last. "Why were you wandering around there when I told you to go to bed?"

Draco smiled brightly. "Looking for someone to go to bed with." When Harry just kept looking at him, he sighed and gave in. "I had a fight with Blaise."

Harry gave him a crooked grin, and let himself slide down to sit on the floor.

"Was the fight with Zabini about me?"

Draco sighed again, somewhat more dramatically, and got off Snape's desk to sit beside him, hands clasped around his knees.


Harry glanced down at Draco's knees, at one of his hands pale and startling against the black material of his jeans.

"Draco-" Even when he was upset and distracted, there was a certain charm in being allowed to say that. He reached over and pulled Draco's hand to him by the wrist.

Draco watched, his face expressionless, and let him do it.

Harry turned over Draco's hand in both of his, examining the knuckles.

"Draco. You hit him?"

There was a slight curl to Draco's mouth, not quite a smile or a sneer. "Yeah. I did."

Harry was faintly appalled.

"What did he say?"

"Nothing that you need to hear," Draco answered, his voice serious for once. "Nothing that was true."

Harry looked thoughtfully at Draco's hand.

"Did he hit you back?"

A small snort. "Not likely."

"That's - good." Draco's hand didn't appear terribly damaged. "I suppose you don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

Harry could have cared less about any of Blaise Zabini's stupid insults. What mattered - the only thing that mattered - about that kind of insult was Draco's reaction to them.

"Potter." Draco's voice was amused. "Am I ever getting my hand back?"

Harry's fingers were darker against Draco's skin. "I don't know." He mused. "I kind of like it."

Draco laughed. "That may be, but I need it for all sorts of things. I think I'm going to insist on having it returned, even if a hook would look dashing."

Harry opened his fingers, and Draco removed his hand.

"I think we can assume that our friends said the same kind of thing about each other," Harry said.

Draco raised his eyebrows. "If so, I am shocked at young Weasley."

Harry laughed. "You're such a brat."

"I'm a Slytherin," Draco answered carelessly. "We are brats. We also use language I really wouldn't expect from Weasley."

"He doesn't like you," Harry told him.

Draco looked faintly concerned.

"I'm... really messing things up for you, aren't I, Potter?"

"What do you m-"

"It would be all right to give up on it, you know. Sometimes things are just too much trouble," Draco continued lightly.

"No! I mean - we're friends. I don't care about anything else. I think it's worth it - and you don't cause me any more trouble than I cause you." Harry almost despised himself for betraying wretchedness so unmistakably. "Is - is that it? Do you want to give up?"

Draco looked at him musingly, and Harry thought he was considering it. He tried not to look concerned.

"Nah," Draco said eventually. "I think I'll keep you around."

Harry's smile would not be kept back. Draco returned it, just a little, his smile faint and teasing.

"I wouldn't have given up on it no matter what," Harry told him. "I won't. I - I mean... oh, you know, Draco."

Draco raised an eyebrow.

"Oh, I know everything. No thanks to you, of course, since you are the most inarticulate person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting." The corner of his mouth lifted. "Well. Now that's settled."

The easing of tension in Draco's body was what made Harry aware it had existed. He leaned his head back and shut his eyes, and Harry wondered for a moment who else was allowed to see Draco Malfoy with his guard down, whether it was to be distraught or relieved or perhaps simply tired. He hoped there wasn't anyone.

"Hey. Potter." Draco nudged him. "What are you thinking about?"

Draco's shoulder was warm and solid against his. It was a comforting touch, reassuring, because this wasn't like the absolute knowledge that Ron would always be there. Most things with Draco were uncertain and different... But he was here, wasn't he, and that had to mean something.

He turned towards Draco, whose profile gave away nothing, and gave him a small teasing smile.

"Why don't you tell me what you're thinking?"
Draco glanced over at him, his face so close Harry could see the small flicker of warmth in his eyes before it became a smile back.

"I've been thinking about your love life."

Harry stared and Draco laughed briefly at his expression.

"Er. What?"

"Well. Ginny Weasley isn't really suitable. I think we can do a little better than a Gryffindor for you. We should find a nice Slytherin girl," Draco suggested brightly.

Harry rolled his eyes pointedly at Draco, who resolutely failed to see this.

"Pansy would be nice, but I'm not sure you like her, and besides - she hates your marrow." He paused, considering. "How about Morag?"

"I don't know her," Harry answered, and I don't care if I never do was pretty much implicit.

"You could get to know her. Come on, Potter, what are you going to do with all your Friday nights?"

"I could be with you."

"You're going to have to be really nice to me if you're planning on killing my social life."

Which, Harry noticed, wasn't the same as no.

"I think I'll pass up Morag, all the same."

Draco yawned, half-heartedly trying to hide it behind his cupped hand.

"Fine. You don't know what you're missing, though." He looked away from Harry, and yawned again.

Harry blinked.

"You're exhausted."

There were shadows under Draco's eyes and a tiny tug of strain about his mouth. This was ridiculous. He should be in bed.

"Just a bit." Draco yawned for the third time and lay on the stones of the dungeon floor, his movements languid, using his elbows to stretch out full length. "Don't let me go to sleep here," he ordered. "No more sleeping places without proper pillows for me. It's uncomfortable, and I don't think I could stand the shame."

Harry stretched out on the stone beside him. "Stop being a prat," he said. "It's not shameful to be tired just like everyone else. And you need to get some rest."

Draco frowned slightly. "Don't fuss, Harry," he mumbled sleepily.

Draco's breathing deepened and slowed.

Harry glanced over at him. He called me Harry, he thought, a little startled.

And then he smiled.

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