Chapter 45: Shifting Tides

So something's about to happen. I don't think it will come as a huge surprise, but I truly hope it doesn't offend anyone. It will not change the story's basic plot or rating, nor was it originally in the plan for this fic, but these characters really just do what they please regardless of my plans. Seriously, I am surprised when I am writing almost as often as when I'm reading. Things just happen, and I'm sitting here powerless at my keyboard wondering "Really, Harry? That's how this is going to go?". So, with that incredibly nebulous intro, here you go.

Also, 500th reviewer gets to submit a plotbunny for oneshotification, just as a reminder. :)

Draco couldn't remember exactly when he had started having trouble sleeping, but he had a sneaking suspicion he could blame his transition into insomnia on one Hermione Granger. Malfoys didn't have insomnia, as a rule. They lied, cheated, scammed, and slithered their way through their daily activities and then slept like a damn baby at the stroke of nine. It was nights like this, nights where his aimless feet seemed to have wandered their way out of the Slytherin dormitories and halfway up the stairs to Severus' private gym before he even noticed what they were doing, when Draco Malfoy wondered if he even qualified as a Malfoy anymore. Up until Hermione approached him after the fiasco at the ministry he was perfectly content to be Lucius' perfect, pureblood princeling, mindlessly forming himself in his father's image in service of the Dark Lord. However, he now willingly spied for the Order, helped remove and destroy fragments of the Dark Lord's soul previously-lodged in the Boy Who Lived, and, most shockingly, vehemently looked forward to the day when one hundred percent of said Dark Lord's soul was dead and gone.

And so he wandered. He usually ended up in the owlery, the astronomy tower, or the quidditch stands. They had the best views and the most plausible excuses for being there at three in the morning. However, today his feet decided they wanted a change of pace, so he found himself panting his way up to Severus' gym as if on autopilot. His rational brain finally engaged when, instead of the peaceful silence of an empty gym, he came face to face with the wand of a messy-haired, newly-horcrux-free Gryffindor. He saw Harry a full three seconds before Harry noticed his presence which, with the amount of training Harry had done over the summer with that one-eyed, vigilance-obsessed, nutjob of an auror, was really saying something about how lost in thought the other man had been. When Draco finally made a small cough to alert Harry to his presence, the raven haired wizard looked over to him with a warm, peaceful smile.

"Hey, you," Harry said warmly, scooting over and gesturing for Draco to join him by the window. Draco walked carefully over, noting the uncharacteristically serene expression on the young Gryffindor's face and plopped down in his normal spot looking over the quidditch pitch. He looked sideways at Harry for a few seconds, almost as if waiting for an explanation, before he could take it no longer.

"Are you high or something? Did Lovegood finally show you her stash of whatever she's been smoking all these years? Because if she did and you didn't share, well, my father's going to hear about it."

This was apparently what was needed to crack Harry's dazed smile into a full blown laugh.

"Oh you know that type of crazy doesn't come from an herb. Whatever she's doing involves a wrong-way encounter with a nargle infestation, and you know it," Harry said through his laughter. "No, it's actually quite bizarre, but ever since it's been just me in here," he tapped his forehead with his pointer finger, "I don't know, it's like I've always been unhappy, and angry, and volatile," Draco snorted at the last one, "and I just assumed it was because I was raised in a crap family and I only escaped to realize that there was a fanatical lunatic trying to murder me every year...and I guess I just thought it was me that was so surly and upset all the time. Now that it's gone, well, it's just kind of peaceful in here. Turns out I'm actually a fairly agreeable bloke when it comes down to it."

Draco nodded, "So it actually feels different? I mean, you can feel that it's gone?"

Harry tilted his head as if trying to find the right wording, "It's hard to explain. It's not like I can physically feel anything different. It's more like, have you ever gotten really drunk and been on about something really vehemently, like how they should have a puffskein only quidditch league, and then in the morning you wake up and think back on it, like, wow, was that stupid. Why on earth did that make sense?" At this point Draco was laughing and nodding so hard it could only indicate that he knew exactly what the other man was talking about.

"So you feel differently about some things then? No lingering desire to take over the world?"

Harry laughed nervously and shook his head, "No, definitely no desire to take over the world, but I don't exactly feel different, it's just clearer. Like I was always so conflicted about what I wanted, but now it makes sense that I was conflicted because there were two of me. Now it's just...Harry. And as it turns out just Harry is actually not that confused about what he wants. It's lovely."

"And what does just Harry want? Other than that all-puffskein quidditch league, of course," Draco asked quietly, attempting humor but somehow falling a little short.

"Well, I am still dead set on that," Harry responded dryly, "I don't know...I still want to defeat Voldemort as quickly as we can and with as little collateral damage as possible, I still want to play Quidditch every once in a while to unwind but, unlike Ron or Ginny, have no desire to play professionally, don't exactly want this, but I'd still die to protect the people I love, like Hermione, or Remus, or Sirius…" Harry took the most pregnant of pauses, before continuing so quietly it would have been drowned out if there had been any ambient noise in the room, "...or you."

Draco's head jerked to face Harry, his eyes so intent they appeared a shade darker than their normal grey. When Harry slowly turned his head to meet Draco's gaze, it seemed time stood still until Draco spoke.

"Is that all you want?" He hadn't meant it to, but it came out more of a husky whisper than actual speech. Harry's eyes widened as he stared across at Draco, not sure what he should read into the blond's statement, who had sucked all the air out of the room, why his heart was hammering like he was in the middle of a quidditch match, or exactly when Draco had moved to be sitting so close to him. Slowly, Harry managed to shake his head slowly back and forth, his eyes never leaving Draco's.

Seeing this, Draco inhaled shakily, paused another second, and gently leaned forward, slowly closing the distance between his lips and Harry's. Both froze the instant their lips met, neither moving as if for fear they would startle the other. After a few seconds Draco pulled back, searching Harry's green eyes unsurely to see if he was going to have to execute a rapid apology, but before he could fully pull back to his own personal space the black-haired wizard's lips surged forward to crash against his own once more. This time the kiss was passionate, exploratory, explosive, and anything but gentle. Draco found his hands running over the training-honed muscles in Harry's arms as Harry ran his fingers through Draco's fine, blond hair. When they finally broke apart, panting, each was wearing a flushed and joyous grin.

"Well," Harry said, catching his breath, "that certainly answers that question."

"Which question would that be?" Draco asked, straightening his tie and still unable to shake the smile from his face.

"Why you always looked so put out when Pansy used to hang off of you in the hallways."

Draco let out a chuckle, "Not as far as she's concerned, or my parents, for that matter,, but yes, the fact that I find girl parts blatantly unappealing might have something to do with it." He paused and tilted his head at Harry, "are you…?"

"...figuring this out minute by minute as I have no idea what I'm doing?" Harry finished Draco's lingering question, "Yep, I am. I always wondered, well, why girls and I didn't, erm, click, but really I just," he stuttered, "I just really wanted to kiss you. Didn't really think much past that." Harry blushed as he looked down at their hands, which had somehow joined, then looked expectantly back at Draco.

"Well, in this instance I'm actually quite okay with figuring things out as we go along." He smiled and lifted their joined hands to his mouth to place a kiss on the back of Harry's hand. Harry's blush deepened as they sat in silence, happily staring out over the moonlit Quidditch pitch.

"WHAT IN THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?" the irate scream of one Ronald Weasley carried down the hallway of the potions corridor as the redhead drew his wand, shaking in anger.

"Back off, Weasley, this doesn't concern you," the cold voice of Adrian Pucey would have made a normal witch or wizard stop in their tracks, especially combined with the fact that he had an ash-pale Pansy Parkinson pinned up against the stone wall of the corridor, his wand at her throat. Ron Weasley, especially when enraged, was much thicker than the normal witch or wizard and didn't even flinch at the ice in the elder boy's tone.

"Well, it's in line behind your horrible breath and your troll-like appearance, but yes, I would actually describe your behavior as quite concerning," the redhead commented brazenly, striding up to the boy, wand out.

"Get. Lost. Weasley." Adrian spat, "This is a matter between Slytherins. It's none of your business. Now scram, before I change where I point my wand." Ron had yet to take notice of the older boy's tone or the fact that it literally had first years cowering in the corner of the hallway.

"Oh, you're upset because Pansy here didn't want to become a brood mare for the dark side? Real shocker that one. Travesty. However, if you're so upset about it, I'm sure there's a spell we could perform on you that would give you the right set of organs to-"

The older boy, now shaking with rage, suddenly dropped his hold on Pansy's neck and swung his wand towards Ron. However, the second the tip of his wand was clear of Pansy's face, a jet of light burst from Ron's wand, hitting the Slytherin straight in the face and knocking him backwards several feet onto his back. When he tried to sit up, his nose had already begun to swell and bleed profusely. The swelling was large enough to keep him pinned on his back and, as the angry Slytherin struggled, a tearing sound could be heard from his nose as a bat with a body the size of a muggle bowling ball burst free from his nose. Later accounts would differ over whether it was the sight of the bat or the blood loss that caused the older boy to pass out in the corridor, but Ron wasted no time in stepping over the unconscious body to extend his hand to a wide-eyed Pansy.

"Thought he'd never shut up. Are you okay?" he said, genuine concern in his voice, taking Pansy's hand and helping pick up her books.

"I'm fine, erm, unlike him," she stuttered, watching another enormous bat fly out of the nose of the still-unconscious Pucey. "What did you do to him?" she asked, delicately gesturing at the body on the floor.

"Oh, that's one of my sister's favorite hexes," he replied nonchalantly. "Usually they're a bit smaller, but now that I think of it she might have said the bats grew some when you really got angry. Wasn't really listening. Maybe I should have," he shrugged, chivalrously holding her hand as they stepped back over the unconscious Pucey. "You hungry?"

Pansy's eyes drifted down at the bleeding body on the floor, currently manufacturing its third bat, up at the absolutely nonplussed expression on the face of the redhead, and back to her former assailant.

"Starved. I assume we should do something with him?" she asked in the same tone most housewives use to discuss taking out the garbage.

"I'm sure one of the firsties has alerted a teacher by now," he said, gesturing at the empty corner the watching crowd had previously occupied. "He'll be fine. Probably. Let's go to the great hall. I'm in serious need of pudding." With that, he offered her his arm and walked her to lunch with a proud smile and a small blush in his face.

That evening Hermione had her feet tucked up under her and her nose in a military strategy book when she heard the door open to reveal an irritated Severus, who was muttering expletives under his breath as he walked.

"Rough day at the office, dear?" Hermione's bright and joking voice seemed to snap Severus out of whatever trance he had been in and alert him to her presence. He bypassed his usual voyage to the kitchen and headed straight towards the glass tumblers and bottle of firewhisky that lived on one of the shelves, shaking his head as he went.

"You need to keep your pet redhead on a leash, my dear. The boy is an absolute menace," he said, pouring himself a generous drink.

"First of all, he's not my pet. If I were allowed to have a proper pet, you know it would be a properly-trained chimera. A ginger simply sheds too much," Severus' eye roll could practically be heard as he sat down in his usual spot on the couch, "and second of all, what did he do now?"

"Well, it turned out that Adrian Pucey was the Slytherin sent to deal with Pansy's apparent desertion. They found his unconscious body in a hallway in the dungeons, bleeding from a gaping hole in his face. I then spent the rest of my day chasing down sodding vampire bats with the wingspan of an overweight phoenix." Hermione raised a very Severus-like eyebrow, but couldn't keep in her snort of laughter.

"And you're sure it was Ron's doing?" she said with a giggle.

"The incident was witnessed by half a class of first years," he replied dejectedly into his tumbler, shaking his head in disbelief.

"Well that, and the bat bogey hex is Ginny's signature hex. She'll be right miffed he used it without asking. But the bats aren't usually that big. Curious," she remarked nonchalantly.

"He must really have taken a liking to Miss Parkinson then. A number of spells that generate physical objects can vary either in size or number with the strength of the caster's emotions," he remarked, retreating into his persona of objective academic, rather than irate head of house.

"Well, that much is apparent, though I wouldn't have put money on it. Half the time when we need him we've been having to drag him out of the private room Dumbledore assigned for her and her sister," she paused to put a marker in the book she'd been reading. "Good thinking on that one, by the way. I wouldn't have thought the Dark Lord would have been brazen enough to order someone to retaliate against her while she was still in the school."

"You can never go wrong overestimating just how brazen the Dark Lord can be, my dear," he replied with a world-weary sigh. "Nor that of a Weasley, apparently. I think this means we should, unfortunately, include Weasley and Parkinson in our morning training sessions. He needs refining and she needs basic self-defense."

"So it's to become a couples thing then?" Hermione replied with a chuckle.

"Not until Potter and my thick-skulled godson stop beating around the bush and realize why they've been staring at each other since their first year," he said with another roll of his eyes.

"Funny you should mention, we had Transfiguration with the Slytherins this morning and Draco was in full Slytherin ice mask mode and Harry was blushing like a damsel."

"You think they've finally cottoned on?"

"They have. Last night. I cornered Harry after class. We've really got to work on that boy's poker face," she remarked laughingly. He offered a mock toast with his now half-empty glass.

"Well, then our training sessions are about to get another level of interesting. How long do you think I can torment them before they figure out I know?" he asked, pretending to inspect a nonexistent crack in his glass.

"You mean to pair them together and focus on hand to hand grappling, don't you?"

His subsequent grin and nod could be found in the dictionary under the definition of 'feral glee'.

"You evil man," she said shaking her head. After a pause, "I won't tell them if you won't." This time she joined him in a conspiratorial grin.