Second Place- Alternate Universe
Third Place - Romance

Underwater Light


Chapter Nine

The Onlooker Sees Most of the Game

This is your new thing now

And it makes the whole world spin

It's as least as old as sin

But not quite

This is your new thing now

And now you're turning grinning

But maybe no one's listening

And you might lose it all my darling, yes you might

The creak of the dungeon door opening made Harry wake with a jump, sitting up and automatically moving in front of Draco, and glancing around wildly until he saw Professor Lupin at the door, vaguely startled and with first years behind him.

The jump woke Draco, whose dishevelled head lifted slightly from the floor.

Lupin's eyes widened as they met Draco's over Harry's knee.

"Harry. Draco," he said. "Er - what a surprise."

Draco looked at the first years behind Lupin, who were gazing at them with great interest, and immediately went into a silent laughing fit.

He was such a help.

"Um, we were, um, going over our Potions practical, and we fell asleep..."

Well, it didn't count as lying if Lupin clearly didn't believe a word Harry said.

Harry made a vague gesture towards Draco, who had happened to catch Lupin's expression just as Harry made his fumbling explanation, and who was now paralysed with laughter.

"Well, I was escorting the students in here early to get set up," Lupin said, still seeming unsure how to react. "If you hurry, you can get breakfast."

"Aren't points going to be taken off?" one of the first years whispered.

"You don't take points off Harry Potter," said a scandalised friend. Harry almost choked.

He looked over at Draco, who was practically crying with mirth.

"Thanks, Professor," Harry said quickly, seizing Draco and pulling him bodily upright.

Harry propelled him out of the door, and Lupin watched them go. Harry couldn't quite read his expression.

A little way down the corridor, Draco had to lean against the wall.

"His face!" he exclaimed weakly. "Your face... I'm sorry, I need a minute..."

Harry folded his arms and gave him five minutes, giving him a forbearing look.

"Yes, very amusing," he said tolerantly. "Come on. Breakfast."

Draco sobered up instantly. "Not without a hairbrush."

"This hair fixation isn't healthy, Draco. You need to eat more."

"Oh good, so I can be unkempt and overweight?" Draco demanded. "You're a sadist, Potter. I require a mirror."

He turned and tried to examine himself in the glass of a door. Harry, just behind him, glanced over Draco's shoulder at Draco's reflection.

The reflection seemed even paler than Draco really was. He looked only half awake, his mouth still soft with sleep and his eyes hooded and hazy.

"Hideous," Draco said, and scowled at it horribly.

"Hm?" Harry blinked. "You're being stupid. Which isn't exactly a rare occurrence, I might add. Come on. I refuse to let you miss breakfast again."

"Let me?" Draco echoed, with a voice that would have been baleful if he hadn't yawned as he was speaking. "How do you propose to stop me?"

Harry yawned too and rested his forehead against Draco's shoulder. Draco relaxed fractionally and Harry laid his hands flat against Draco's back and shoved him firmly down the corridor.

"Like this, mastermind. Breakfast. Now."

Draco complained half-heartedly all the way there. Harry just kept shoving at strategic intervals.

Where Pansy Parkinson and Ron were standing.

"-any more than you do, Weasley, you red-haired oaf," Pansy was yelling this when she caught sight of Draco and hurled herself at him. "Draco!" She reached up to touch Draco's hair and Draco caught her wrist gently. She gestured instead. "You... It's not brushed."

The accusing look she shot Harry made him think for a wild moment that she was about to demand, What have you done with my child?

She began busily dragging him into the Great Hall, asking in a loud voice what he wanted to eat. Harry held on to Draco for an instant. She turned and gave him a venomous glare, and he stared coldly back and let go.

Ron glowered as he came in too.

"I need a cup of coffee," Draco said grouchily. "Get off, Pansy."

He glanced over at the Slytherin table, met Blaise Zabini's narrow-eyed glare and turned very deliberately around to face Harry.

"See you tonight, Harry?"

"Yeah," Harry said. "Sure. Great."

Draco strolled off. Ron's face looked like he had bitten into a lemon.

"Where were you?" he hissed.

"It's none of your business," Harry told him coldly.

Ron breathed out hard through his nose and folded his arms. "Listen, I... Hermione and I had a talk. It was - I shouldn't accuse anybody without proof."

Harry relaxed a little.

"You don't know him, Ron."

And he knew things were okay between them again, even if Ron made a face and muttered, "Do you?" as they went to their seats at the Gryffindor table.

Hermione and I had a talk, Ron had said, but Hermione's face gave away nothing as she offered Harry some toast.

He wondered what she thought about all that was going on.


Hermione had no idea what to do about this appalling state of affairs.

This was upsetting.

Hermione was used to having ideas, to being reasonable, to understanding. She felt Ron was better equipped for the part of the perplexed one.

But now...

She was curled up on a chair in front of the fire in the Gryffindor classroom as the evening wore into night, thinking about Harry.

She very seldom had to wonder about Harry. A friend could tell whatever they wanted to know from one glance at his face.

Hermione considered Harry's face. It was one of the faces she loved best in the world, a face she had watched so often that she was fondest of its flaws.

In many ways, it was still a child's face. It was thin and pale, the bone structure so delicate it almost seemed triangular. It was such an open face, reflecting everything he thought.

Hermione smiled slightly as she remembered how Harry had acted around Cho Chang back in fourth year, how he had blushed and cast sidelong glances and become utterly tongue-tied around her.

He wasn't anything like Ron, who stared openly or pulled pigtails. Harry was the shy, adoring type.

Hermione's smile faded as she recalled the look Harry had worn most often since fourth year.

Oh, Harry. He thought he hid things so well, when everyone could read the bleak misery on his face. Even though Hermione could see how much he hated all this oppressive sympathy, she could not stop trying to reach out to him, because she couldn't stop feeling desperately anxious about him. Hermione had seen Harry's eyes go flat and cold as the surface of those round glasses he insisted on keeping. Every time she saw that look, her heart broke. She never wanted to see it again.

She had been so pleased he was happy. But now...

Hermione was seeing things she didn't want to see now, too.

She saw the glances between him and Malfoy in the corridors, private and exclusive as a touch. She saw how they seemed to fall instinctively into step. She remembered Harry's crackling black hatred, erupting in fights that sent other students hurtling down the corridors away from them, and she saw where that energy put into that hatred had gone.

She saw little things, like Harry and Malfoy in Care of Magical Creatures sharing one book, the accidental lingering brush of hands, the sitting closer than was necessary. She saw Harry's look at Malfoy when they forgot to stroke the book and it bit Malfoy, and he was making a laughing, histrionic production about it - and she thought, that's not normal...

Just then, Harry came in. Hermione cast a glance over at his flushed face and windblown hair. He smiled and dashed up the stairs.

That was one endearing quality of his pale skin - it too showed every emotion. Harry couldn't hide anything from Hermione, even if she was trying her hardest not to see.

She realised, as she gazed into the fire, that she was trying to work out if Harry was attractive or not.

She loved him like a brother, and thus had never given much thought to the matter. But now she had to look up and think of Harry in a different context than she had ever thought of him before. In the light of recent events, she felt she should give the matter some consideration.

Harry walked in again, dressed in his pyjamas, and hopped into the chair beside her.

Hermione decided that he was quite appealing. He looked better than usual in his new clothes and his eyes were flashing with enthusiasm... but no, he wasn't conventionally attractive.

By now they had established a kind of routine.

Harry would come in at some near-unearthly hour and sit beside her, fixing her with that eager gaze. After a while, Hermione would surrender and ask him how his day had been.

It was worth it to see his face glow.

Then he would launch into a thrilled description of whatever amazing adventure he had had that evening, liberally sprinkling the narrative with such staple phrases as 'then Draco said...' His smile throughout the whole story was simple and delighted.

He had been doing this for some time. At first, Hermione had only been relieved that he had cast off that awful depression. Then she had begun to think this friendship was too intense to be healthy. Then...

It was better than the days when Malfoy did not show up. This happened about twice a week, and whatever Hermione's opinion of Malfoy, she absolutely hated to see Harry droop by the fire all evening. All he would do was forlornly reject offers of chess or Exploding Snap.

It was a liability, being that transparent. It made you far too vulnerable.

"So, Harry, what did you do today?" Hermione inquired with a resigned smile.

Harry straightened up in his chair, looking gleeful, and promptly told her.

It was a long, involved tale. It seemed Malfoy had thought it would be extremely funny to try and magic a carpet to fly, and it had ended up dumping them into a tree.

Apparently savage floor-coverings were very much Harry's cup of tea. He seemed to have had a good time.

Hermione noticed that Harry looked small when he was sitting down, and taller than he really was when he was standing up. Oddly enough, his slight build seemed to account for both effects.

It also accounted for his grace, which was of a strange kind. At first sight, he appeared awkward, and then you realised he had the same agility as a fledgling. At first or second sight, you were always touched by the sheer lack of calculation in his every movement.

He was a child in his spontaneity, too.

The only times when he was adult came when he was in the throes of some grave emotion, and then he was wiser and more adult than anyone she knew.

She loved him. She really loved him, serious, reckless, utterly vulnerable Harry, a friend who was closer than a brother.

"That sounds like fun," she said, indulging him.

Harry's face shone. "It was," he agreed. "And then Draco said-"

"Hey Harry, Hermione." Ron was at the foot of the stairs. "It's bedtime."

Harry got up willingly, flashing Hermione that shy I'll-give-you-two-alone-time smile. Harry was never more obvious than when he was trying to be subtle.

Oh, but he didn't have that isolated, desolate look on his face when he left them anymore.

She didn't know. She couldn't decide what would be best.

"You're looking thoughtful, sweetheart."

Hermione looked up at Ron's slightly concerned face. It was a face of broad features and freckles, not very appealing to a casual observer. But somehow, she had come to love it dearly.

For no reason whatsoever, except that she could not help herself.

She got up and slipped her arms around his neck, dismissing worries about Harry from her mind.

Everything was so difficult and so terrifying these days. This was just one more thing to worry about, just one more threat to someone she loved.

Hermione buried her face in Ron's shoulder and tried not to think about anything for a while.


The next morning, Hermione's worries had returned.

Sometimes she thought that Ron was right, and she did think too much.

It was one of those dainty grey mornings, like something traced on a teacup. Fragments of cloud lingered on the skyline, which still wore pale echoes of the sunrise. The landscape seemed more subdued than usual.

The morning air had a bite to it as they hurried towards Hagrid's hut for Care of Magical Creatures.

Ron and Hermione were hand in hand, snuggled together for warmth. Hermione offered her other hand to Harry, but just then they saw that the Slytherins were a short way in front of them, bearing down on Hagrid's hut in a body.

Harry smiled that irrepressible youthful smile and waved her hand away.

"Nah," he said.

He didn't even pause before walking onward; he didn't feign a casual approach.

Moving subtly as a snake among his fellow Slytherins, Malfoy fell to the back of his group. That was his only acknowledgement of Harry's existence, until Harry drew near him, when he gave a cool nod.

Harry's grin was wholehearted and artless.

God, but they were different.

Hermione squinted at them, trying her hand at analysis again. This was difficult because she had a Greek chorus in her head that was prone to chanting 'Bastard!' whenever Malfoy was present.

All she could do was look at them together, and think of all the details she had noticed in Harry last night, and then put the two images side by side.

A study in black and white.

Malfoy was pale, of course. In that he was like Harry. But Harry's skin was clear parchment where his emotions could be written plainly.

Emotion could not penetrate Malfoy's skin - assuming he had ever had any emotions, that was. Even intense physical exertion made him pink rather than red.

There was nothing endearing about his poise. It was a chilly thing, that ability to be relaxed and graceful at all times.

Perfection in anyone you dislike is an extremely annoying trait.

He was the antithesis to Harry, whom she loved so dearly and with such protectiveness.

She glared at the blond head turned slightly to Harry's messy dark one. It seemed to be a deliberate contrast with Harry's hair.

Bastard! said her Greek chorus. Even his hair seems to have a malicious purpose of its own.

Then Hermione saw his face as he glanced over at Harry, and a new thought occurred to her.

His face, too, was utterly unlike Harry's. It was made for concealment rather than openness, thoughts rather than feelings. It was a narrow face, with ascetic features, a mouth made to curl, a pointed chin and eyes that glittered like frost.

And yes, Hermione had to admit - it was handsome.

But there was something uncalculated about his faint expression of amusement just now... It made her wonder.

Could Malfoy not know?

Obviously, some people didn't know. The Slytherins apparently didn't know, since there had been a lack of bloodthirsty mobs out to get Harry lately. The Gryffindors were clueless for the most part.

Ron didn't know, because he would have gone absolutely insane.

Still - there was a whisper at the Ravenclaw table, and a murmur among the Hufflepuffs, and some raised eyebrows from a couple of the staff. And there was Hermione herself, who had tried and tried to deny it, but who had been forced to accept the glaringly obvious.

Enough people knew so you could say 'Everybody knows...'

Everybody knew that Harry was absolutely dizzy for Draco Malfoy.

Poor innocent Harry, of course, had no idea. Malfoy, however...

Hermione had assumed that he knew all about it - he was the quick type, the little bastard - and he was playing Harry for some fiendish purpose of his own.

Still, that glance - well, it hadn't been friendly, but it hadn't been guarded. Malfoy had looked almost normal, and not like someone who was plotting another person's downfall.

Of course, that could be exactly his intention. Bastard!

Either Malfoy was quite aware of the situation, and setting up Harry for a fall, or he was blissfully unconscious of the whole mess.

Either way meant...

"What are you thinking of, Hermione?" Ron asked, sliding his arms around her as they walked together.

She turned her face into his neck for consolation, savouring uncomplicated warmth and closeness. Eventually she answered.

"Trouble," she said darkly.


Trouble can be closer than you think.

Hermione realised this on the next day. It was a Saturday, and she began the morning seated opposite to Harry.

His bright Isn't-it-a-beautiful-day-to-be-alive-and-about-to-see-Draco-Malfoy smile put her right off her food.

So did his constant peering over her shoulder to the Slytherin table.

"Today's the Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff Quidditch match," he declared at last, putting an egg carefully into his cup.

"I know," Hermione replied. "It's always a nice change to have you in the stands with us."

Except at the last Slytherin-Ravenclaw match, she added silently, when you had your fingers crossed for Slytherin and were so secretly delighted when Malfoy - bastard! - caught the Snitch.

Harry went red, the easy childlike colour staining his skin.

"Oh, well... Actually, since it's the only game when we won't be playing, Draco and I were planning to watch it together." He became confidential. "We have a bet on."

Oh, Harry, you adorable idiot, Hermione thought with a sudden aching pang of impatience. Could you be more smitten?

Could you be more stupid?

Malfoy entered the Great Hall, wearing those recently acquired weekend Muggle clothes.

Harry knocked his egg out of its cup.

"Sorry," he said to Ron, who was staring at the egg in his cereal. "You know me, I'm always clumsy."

Yes, Hermione thought with heavy sarcasm. You're our really uncoordinated star Quidditch player. Silly us.

Harry was still gazing, starry-eyed, across the room.

Hermione didn't really know what he was making such a fuss about. Certainly, Malfoy looked slim in his Muggle jeans, and the open-necked white shirt showed a little more chest than usual, but he was still the king of Bastardshire.

He saw Harry, and he favoured him with another of those cool nods.

Oh, isn't Malfoy emotionally invested, Hermione thought. Bastard!

Harry's smile was uncomplicated and delighted.

He doesn't even realise, Hermione reflected as she saw Harry reach out for toast and spread it absently with raspberry jam, just as Malfoy was doing over at the Slytherin table.

Harry seemed too absorbed in watching Malfoy eat to notice what he was eating. Hermione glanced over to see Malfoy smirking and having an animated conversation with Blaise Zabini, waving his toast dramatically in the air. Then she saw the faint reflection of Malfoy's expression on Harry's face, flickering like rays of sunlight over the water. Somehow they seemed pure, filtered through his entirely different features.

God, Harry. Do you have any idea what you're doing? Don't you remember his father was a Death Eater? Lucius Malfoy did not die for our cause. He was punished for double-dealing his precious Dark Lord. He was a cold-blooded murderous Death Eater, one of the worst of his kind. And his son is just like him, only on our side for sweet revenge, and we can't afford to trust someone like that - especially not at a time like this.

And you have to go and fall for the bastard.


It was at the Quidditch match when Hermione received the distinctly unwelcome revelation that disaster was hurtling towards them.

Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw were actually playing a very good game, and the students were all enjoying the uncertainty one got without Harry Potter, who played better than anyone, or Draco Malfoy, who cheated better than anyone.

The day seemed bright and summery, and the game went on in a leisurely fashion for most of the day, until the sun slipped under the horizon and the sky turned violet.

Hermione almost had a good time, leaning against an enthused Ron, watching the game and feeling the sun caress her bare shoulders.


If not for the spectacle of the two boys near the Quidditch field.

They weren't in the stands. Ron would not have put up with that, and - Hermione checked the glowering faces of Pansy, Zabini, Crabbe and Goyle - the Slytherins would have torn Harry limb from limb.

Instead, they were just off the pitch, near the benches where the players kept their towels and the substitutes sat. Malfoy was leaning back on his hands, legs stretched out and ankles crossed, his face lifted up to the sky. Harry had his arms locked around his knees and his eyes fixed on the game.

Correction, his eyes usually fixed on the game. Hermione noticed that Harry's concentration slipped occasionally.

Such as when Malfoy waved an imaginary flag and drawled, 'Go Ravenclaw.' Or when Malfoy stretched languidly, or shook his head so locks of his hair flashed in the sun.

Harry's eyes slid helplessly away from the game, glanced, and looked away. He didn't even seem aware he was doing it. Hermione was aware, all right. She was also revolted.

She wondered what they were talking about, so she murmured an excuse to Ron and wandered vaguely through the stands to a place where she could spy on them unobtrusively. She knew this was unethical, but... she was desperately worried about Harry! She had to find out what Malfoy was plotting to do with him.

At the exact point when she began eavesdropping, the crowd erupted into a cheer.

Hermione decided this was Life.

Eventually, she made out a certain hateful voice.

"Ravenclaw win! You owe me five blood-flavoured lollipops."

Hermione had a terrible moment where she imagined this was a euphemism.

"Triumph while you can, Draco," said Harry's voice. Hermione burned as she heard his voice, that sweet-tempered voice a shade deeper than one would expect from such a young face, addressing Malfoy as if he were a friend. "I'm going to wipe the pitch with you next week."

"If you do, I shall regard you with the utmost loathing forevermore."

Oh, here we go. Emotional blackmail.

Hermione's fists clenched as she heard the sudden vibration of uncertainty in Harry's tone.

"Really? For-"

"Forevermore," Malfoy supplied. "So you'd better not speak to me for - oh, three days."

Hermione was startled to hear them both laugh, Malfoy's loathsome snicker mingling with Harry's chuckle.

"Anyway," Malfoy continued, "I'm going to win this time. You see, this whole victorious streak of yours has not been, as certain dunderheads in the audience have supposed, an offering of sympathy to your battered heart. It was actually a cunning Slytherin plan to lull you into a false sense of security. Which, being done-"

"Draco, quit your wittering. What's the time?"

The lazy, dismissive affection in Harry's tone made Hermione look over at them in a protective fury. Her eyes narrowed as they rested on Malfoy.

If ever a boy needed another slap in the face...

Then her eyes widened in alarm.

Harry had leaned in casually to get a look at Malfoy's watch, a hand steadying himself on Malfoy's shoulder.

Malfoy had turned and angled himself towards Harry to tell him the time.

Their faces ended up inches apart.

Hermione's heart slammed to a stop with sheer dread.

Their profiles were outlined against the violet sky. She could see the pale light shimmer on Malfoy's smooth hair, could see the gradual unfocusing of Harry's green eyes.

He did not seem to be breathing. His hand was no longer gripping Malfoy's shoulder but placed there lightly, fingers curling around the tendrils of his hair. She could see the trembling of Harry's lips and lashes silhouetted, the faltering soon to be replaced with realisation...

If he moved ever so slightly, he would brush Malfoy's mouth with his own.

Malfoy's profile was aristocratic and unmoved as ever. He turned away, checking his watch again.

"It's a quarter past six."

Harry sank back, the moment of almost-realisation slipping away. His hand lingered an instant too long on Malfoy's shoulder.

Malfoy glanced at it, those fingers just touching his hair, and Hermione prayed for some sign that Malfoy at least knew...

"My hair's getting too long again," he commented airily. "Wretched stuff."

Hermione felt arms slip around her waist, and heroically controlled a startled scream.

"There you are," Ron said behind her. "I've been looking for you." He nuzzled her neck. "So tell me, when's this trouble you were talking about going to happen?"

Hermione leaned back in his arms for security even as her mind ticked over various possibilities.

Harry and Malfoy were getting up. She saw Malfoy glance over at them, his grey eyes coolly distrustful.

Harry, of course, had eyes for no one but Malfoy.

What did that look mean? What was Malfoy going to do? Sooner or later, Harry was going to figure things out, and then...

Hermione remembered Cho Chang. Harry had been so nervous about asking her to the ball, but he had done it. A pretty, popular, older girl - someone most boys wouldn't have dared to try for.

It wasn't that Harry was confident... it was that he couldn't help blindly pursuing what he wanted. That he couldn't help wanting something with his whole heart.

It wasn't a question of what Harry would do. But Malfoy - would he simply break Harry's heart, or could he possibly have a more sinister agenda?

Hermione remembered Lucius Malfoy, and shivered.

"Don't worry about it, Ron."

I can do that for both of us.


Hermione knew there would be something different about this meeting of the Duelling Club when they were all asked to show up in casual Muggle clothes.

Her suspicions were confirmed when they came in and the room was full of mats. And when Lupin was joined at the beginning of the class by Sirius, who was usually never allowed within a mile of the Slytherins.

Hermione noticed a certain amount of fluttering among the girls when they saw Sirius. Their newest Professor, now he was getting regular baths and meals, was really quite attractive, and the dark past and the flying motorbike didn't hurt at all.

Hermione thought that this was ridiculous. Sirius Black was almost like a parent.

No... that wasn't true, was it? Harry would have been in a much better state if Sirius Black possessed the mindset of a parent.

He loved Harry, Hermione never doubted that. He would have died for him in a second; he was fighting this war with the determination to save Harry at any cost. He was born for dramatic gestures like revenge killings, prison breaks and impulsive adoptions.

But Sirius had not been born for day-to-day life. He didn't know how to take care of a child, how to display the consideration and affection that radiated from the steadier Professor Lupin all the time. He had been born volatile and unreliable, the boy who had nearly killed Snape, and twelve years in Azkaban had only exaggerated those qualities.

He simply wasn't Harry's father. He couldn't help it. And Harry couldn't help hurting because of it.

Hermione saw the smile exchanged between them, and reflected that Sirius had been so busy he couldn't have absorbed this situation between his godson and Draco Malfoy.

Of course, neither had Harry.

But it was only a matter of time.

Hermione's eyes narrowed as Draco Malfoy and the Slytherins arrived in the Duelling Club. So, she was alarmed to notice, did Sirius'.


Harry smiled, shook his head and mouthed You're late as Draco came into the room.

Draco rolled his eyes at him and carried on arguing with Blaise Zabini, who seemed to think that a shiny stretch top was casual wear.

Of course, fastidious Draco was wearing entirely appropriate clothes: a faded white T-shirt and black combat trousers, which Harry noticed little Natalie MacDonald eyeing.

"You're late, Slytherins," Sirius observed, his eyes black slits.

Harry steeled himself for a gleeful mass removal of points. Draco gave Sirius a cold look.

"We had better get started, then," Lupin interposed gracefully. "Students, Professor Black has kindly agreed to show you some battle arts, in which I confess I have little skill. I believe you know very little of hand-to-hand fighting?"

Ron gave the snort of one with five older brothers, and earned himself a wry smile before Lupin continued.

"I believe it would be a useful skill to learn. It might tip the balance in a duel. Should you and your opponent happen to disarm each other at the same moment, it could be crucial to your survival. I hope you will all pay the closest attention, and try hard when you are asked to duel."

"I learned these skills at school," Sirius chipped in, smiling wickedly at Harry in particular. "You can all do it too."

Most people smiled back at him.

"Marvellous," Draco said, not quite under his breath. "The war against darkness has descended to a bar-room brawl."

Blaise Zabini snickered, Lupin wisely did not hear and Sirius' eyes narrowed again.

"I suppose I should expect that sort of remark - from Lucius Malfoy's son."

Draco lifted his chin and looked annoyingly superior as only he knew how. "That's right."

"Well, I'm sure you have all sorts of dirty tricks up your sleeve for emergencies," Sirius said darkly, "but if you don't mind, I still think there's something I can teach you."

He had turned away, pushing a hand through his black hair with unnecessary force, when the whole room heard Draco whisper not quite low enough:

"I doubt it."

Harry tried to catch Draco's eye, Sirius' eye, somebody's, but they were busy glaring at each other.

"Fine," Sirius said tightly. "Since you are such an expert, Mr. Malfoy, perhaps you'll volunteer your services as my assistant?"

Lupin coughed in an urgent sort of manner, and was utterly ignored.

"It would be my pleasure," Draco shot back.

Harry looked at Sirius in alarm. He knew enough not to trust Sirius' temper when Sirius was annoyed - he'd punched Professor Snape last year.

"Sure now?" Sirius asked. "I might mess up your hair."

His eyes flicked with thinly veiled contempt up at Draco's hair. Draco smiled serenely at him.

"Then I might have to kill you."

Sirius' lip curled.

"All right, class," Sirius announced. "Watch carefully, please. I assure you," he added to Pansy, who was clinging to Draco's elbow, "I won't hurt Mr. Malfoy too badly."

"I'm sure you won't," Draco returned, shaking off Pansy and walking purposefully over to the mat where Sirius stood.

Ron was mouthing devout thanks to fate. Harry was resisting the urge to carry Draco off somewhere and not let him go until he'd talked some sense into his thick head.

"You're Snape's little favourite too," Sirius observed, eyeing Draco with increasing dislike. "Everybody watch as I circle young Mr Malfoy..."

"Professor Snape is the best teacher I ever had," Draco responded austerely. "He's really an example to his colleagues."

Sirius' teeth came together with a click.

"Please be watchful, Mr Malfoy," he said. "I was in prison for quite a while. You learn a few tricks."

"Yes, I've heard about prison," Draco told him. "I bet you wrestled with young boys there too. Watch where your hands wander."

"Draco," Lupin said sternly, as breaths hissed all around the room.

Everybody knew that Professor Black wasn't exactly a conventional teacher, but this was going altogether too far. Harry clamped down fiercely on that impulse to drag Draco away.

Sirius attacked.

Even furious, Sirius would never have hurt a student. Harry saw him check himself as he lunged, moving to knock Draco's breath out and immobilise him rather than strike. And Sirius was just as quick and deft as Harry had thought.

Harry had not thought about the fact that Draco would have no such qualms, and that he was fast as a snake.

He got in a blow. Sirius staggered back.

The class held their collective breaths.

And, hair tumbling into his furious face, Sirius went for Draco, and he had his arm and Draco was glaring at him defiantly and he might just twist and Harry would have to just stand up and yell...

"Sirius!" It was Professor Lupin's warning voice. "Perhaps it would be best to pair up the students, and instruct them at a remove."

Fury blazed on Sirius' face, but he dropped Draco's arm.

"Fine," he ground out. "Harry - why don't you take him."

"Happy to," Harry answered swiftly. He jumped up and took Draco's arm, pulling him back from Sirius. "You know how incredibly stupid you can be, don't you?" he said into Draco's ear.

Draco looked aggrieved, and Sirius, giving them both an incredulous stare, looked outraged.

Then he stomped off to order the other people into pairs.

"Ron and Hermione, you two together, Neville and - Millicent, why not, Neville, don't whimper... First one to get the other down for a count of five wins."

Draco looked after him, his eyes icy grey slits.

"I loathe that man," he announced loudly.

"Shut up," Harry said. "That's my godfather you're talking about."

He stepped away from Draco and they faced each other on the mat.

Students were paired up across the room. Hermione was laughing as Ron pretended to wrestle with her. Blaise Zabini was yelling at Pansy, who had him in a headlock.

Harry swiped half-heartedly at Draco, and Draco side-stepped without missing a beat.

"Professor Snape told me all about what he did to him," he said, scowling and aiming a blow at Harry it took Seeker swiftness to avoid.

"That was a joke!"

Draco gave him an assessing look. "Some joke," he said finally. "I don't find attempted murder all that amusing. He bloody well knew what would happen if a werewolf got to Professor Snape. And that werewolf was his friend, as well."

Harry paused and Draco almost got him. He had never thought of Sirius' action as a betrayal of Lupin.

"Well..." he said. "He's paid if he ever did anything wrong, hasn't he? Twelve years in Azkaban more than pays for anything, if you ask me."

Draco frowned, but didn't answer. Harry pressed his advantage.

"It's not like Professor Snape hasn't made some serious mistakes in his time. He paid for them, and now it's all right. That's how life works. You do the wrong thing and you make up for it - and then people forgive you."

Draco smiled brilliantly and tried to trip Harry up.

"Yeah? And when did you ever do the wrong thing, Potter?"

"I... made you come to breakfast with messy hair."

"And you can never make up for that. Die, demonspawn, die."

Harry grinned and tried to grab Draco's arm.

"He's my godfather - I love him. Why don't you give him a chance?"

Draco pursed his lips. "I'm not sure if I believe in chances. People seldom give me them."

Harry stopped and looked at him seriously. "I - I would."

"As I recall, you did." Draco gave him a charming smile in exchange for his startled look. "But then, you're absurdly trusting."

Draco lunged at him and tackled him to the floor.

Harry ended up on his back on the mat with Draco on top of him, and Draco must have hit him rather viciously because all the breath had been knocked out of Harry. He breathed hard, dazed, letting the seconds slip by. Draco's hair and breath brushed light on his skin.

Draco's hair was haloed by the light above them. He smiled teasingly into Harry's face, a smile bright and quick as a shiver. Then he propped his elbows on Harry's chest and slid into a different position in order to get off.

"Too easy, Potter."

Hosted by