Title: Draco In Darkness (05)
Author name: Plumeria
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Following an accident in his seventh year, Draco loses his eyesight. At first he completely withdraws, avoiding any hint of pity, as well as any assistance; he is determined to succeed on his own. But after Harry elbows his way into Draco's dark world, both boys find themselves in a strange new friendship, and they each learn new ways to see each other ... and themselves. [This chapter: A ride on a broom, and a crash of an entirely different sort.]
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author notes: This is my favourite chapter. I'm not entirely sure why - it just is. You might not agree - and that's all right. I just had to say it.

I cringe to think how much I owe my hardworking betas by now. Liss, Penguin, Glissando, and Heinous_Bitca -- Thank you so much! Additional thank-yous to my readers are at the bottom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[Chapter 5]
Soaring and Falling

Two are better than one; for they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him.

-- Ecclesiastes 4:9-11


"I can't study with you tomorrow," Harry said apologetically, as he piled his quills and ink back into his bag.

"Oh? Hot date?" Draco joked.

Harry snorted. "Not bloody likely."

"Oh, that's right. I forgot. Girls don't like dark, slim, clever, hero-types."

"Shut up."

"So much for the 'blonds have more fun' theory...."

"Do you want me to smack you?"

"Hmmm... add 'kinky' to the list of Potter-traits," Draco mused, a grin spreading over his features. "Who knew you were such a masochist?"

"Malfoy-" Harry warned. "Look, I'm not interested in any girl right now. So - enough with the 'hot date' theories. I can't meet you tomorrow because the game with Ravenclaw is coming up and we have an extra Quidditch practice scheduled."

There was a pause. "Oh, right. Quidditch," Draco finally replied, rather stiffly.

Harry bit his lip. He suddenly remembered this was the one thing Draco could no longer do. The Slytherin had played as fiercely and proudly for his team as Harry still did for his ... but now he never spoke of it. "I'm sorry," Harry murmured. "I should have-"

"No problem, Potter," Draco interjected with an overbright smile. "See you Friday?"

"Yes, of course, but-" Harry looked at his friend with concern. Draco's face was looking rather pinched beneath the smile. "Are you okay?"

The smile slipped slightly from his features. "I'm fine," the blond replied tersely. "And we can't have you losing to the Ravenclaws after all this time, can we? Go practice. See you Friday." He turned away and began meticulously packing his books and materials into his bag.

"Right," Harry said with a sigh, knowing he would get no further. He got to his feet and headed for the door. "See you Friday."

~*~*~

As he walked back to his common room, he wondered why he had never really noticed it before, the fact that Draco avoided even mentioning Quidditch like the plague. Nothing relating to it at all. It was as if the game no longer existed to him. Harry remembered how the Slytherin had immediately scrapped the idea of dueling on the pitch, but had offered no excuse; he'd only stated why he wanted to avoid the area near Hagrid's cabin. Had he been there at the recent Slytherin match with Hufflepuff? It wasn't easy to pick out a single face in the sea of students but, given his behaviour today, Harry suspected he hadn't. It had been strange enough for Harry to see dark-haired Laynee Gruen playing as Slytherin Seeker, instead of the familiar blond; for Draco to come and hear the commentator talking about his replacement would probably have been too painful. Still - he couldn't avoid it forever, could he? Quidditch was too big a part of the wizarding world.

Harry resisted the urge to bang his head on the banister as he climbed the stairs to Gryffindor Tower; he felt like an insensitive idiot for not thinking about Draco's feelings sooner, but also felt equally angry at Draco for avoiding the issue as long as he had. There was so much he avoided.

Then again, how would he feel if something were to prevent him from ever playing Quidditch again? Harry's insides grew cold just at the mere thought of it. Would he be able to attend the games anyway, and enjoy purely it as a spectator? He loved watching the games he wasn't involved in, but it was still with the sure knowledge that he would have plenty of turns up in the sky. What if that weren't the case?

Harry sighed. There was so much he took for granted, so much which had changed for Draco, for all his insistence on normality.

~*~*~

It was a partly cloudy day which greeted the red and the blue-clad teams as they walked onto the pitch on Saturday. Harry's opposition was Bethany, a blonde 5th year girl, the complete antithesis of Cho. With a surprisingly detached eye, Harry decided she was rather pretty. Her hair was easily the most appealing feature, with long silvery locks hung in a long plait down her back, but also found he wasn't at all interested in her as a whole. Ron probably would be, though; depending on how long his relationship with Mandy lasted, Harry thought he wouldn't be surprised if his best friend tried to get together with this girl at some point.

The game began and Harry coasted over the main action in a spiraling loop, watching for the telltale hint of gold from the Snitch. But he also found himself glancing down at the spectators from time to time, looking to see if Draco had come to watch. Several times he noticed a bright flash of silver-gilt not far from him, and his head whipped up automatically, only to remember that it was the Ravenclaw Seeker. The stands were full, and it was hard to pick out individuals but, as far as he could tell, Draco was not among the horde of screaming fans.

He tried to put the other boy out of his mind; the whole point behind the extra practice session this week had been to beat the well-trained Ravenclaw team, and their Seeker was amongst their most skilled players. He tuned out Dean - who had taken over as commentator -- the crowd, and as much of the action as he could ignore without colliding with anything, and put his concentration into out-maneouvering his opposition. The results were closer than he would have liked, but in the end his broom and his slightly longer reach served him well; sweaty but triumphant, he closed his hand around the little fluttering ball and held it up for all to see. Victory!

His teammates piled around him in celebration; with this win they were still in the running for the Quidditch Cup, despite their loss to Slytherin earlier. They would just need to make sure their winning margin over Hufflepuff was large enough. In a flurry of laughter, party plans, and exuberant loop-the-loops, they settled to the ground, accepted the congratulations from their House, and trooped off en masse back to the castle to begin the festivities. Except for Harry.

When Dean and Seamus had heaved him onto their shoulders in jubilation, Harry had spotted Draco. Alone -- not in the rapidly-emptying stands, but standing by the far side of the pitch in neutral territory.

Harry wiggled out of his friends' grasp. "You go on without me; I'll be up in a minute," he told them.

They raised one dark and one sandy-blond eyebrow in response, then shrugged, grinning, their minds already back on the celebration. "Just don't be too long," Seamus told him. "Colin and Dennis' mum sent them a large box of Honeydukes sweets recently, and they were saving them for today. Besides, what's a party without the Seeker?"

Harry grinned back. "Save me some, would you? And I'm sure the party will go on just fine; our Chasers usually celebrate loudly enough for the whole House!" They all laughed. Then, after waving them off, he turned and threaded his way through the swiftly-thinning crowd, accepting the congratulations or dodging the glares of those he passed, until he finally reached the lone Slytherin. Draco stood silently at the edge of the pitch with his face tilted to the sky as if an invisible game was still going on.

"I wasn't sure whether you still came to the games," Harry said hesitantly, as he drew near.

The blond shrugged, swiveling his head in that not-quite-complete turn, as if seeking a compromise between having his eyes or his ears facing Harry. "I don't. But it was so noisy today, I could hear the shouting all the way inside the castle," he said. "Figured as long as I couldn't study, I might as well come out and hear the score properly."

Harry couldn't help smiling. He suspected Draco wasn't quite telling the full truth behind his nonchalant reasons for being there - it wasn't as if today's game had been any noisier than any other. But he wasn't sure he cared. The point was, Draco was there. He'd set foot on the pitch. And he'd seen - well, heard - Harry play.

"So, what did you think?"

Draco paused to consider. "It's a lot less interesting to just hear about it, rather than see it. Most of the time I had no idea what you or that Ravenclaw Seeker were up to until the very end, when you were scrambling for the Snitch. Thomas's description mostly focused on the other players." He shrugged again. "It was okay. Congratulations, by the way." He gave a small smile.

"Thanks," Harry responded, trying to think of a way for Draco to experience the parts he missed. "You didn't miss too much, really. You know how it is - you sit around twiddling your thumbs for most of the game, and then have five minutes of insane dodging, racing, and dive-bombing to beat the other Seeker."

Draco's expression dropped slightly. "Yes," he answered slowly. "I remember."

Harry bit his lip. He felt like he was doing this all wrong; he was trying to bring the experience to life, not make the Slytherin more wistful. He scanned the now-empty pitch, trying to think of something he could say or do to bring the thrill back. Then his eyes fell on the Firebolt still clutched in his grip. "Hey," he finally told the other boy, "why don't you come flying with me?"

Draco scowled. "That's not funny, Potter."

"No, I mean it. Look - you can sit behind me - my broom is strong enough. Then you can fly again. I bet you haven't been up since ... you know ... the accid-"

"No way." Draco cut him off with a shake of his head. "Potter, I can't."

But Harry was determined. There might be things Draco couldn't do anymore - like be a Seeker - but flying tandem was certainly possible. No more avoidance.

"Yes, you can," he told Draco, slapping his broom into position between them. "Here." He climbed on the broom, then twisted around and grabbed Draco's hand, steering it toward the handle behind him. "There's the broom. I'm in front, so you can just hold on to me. You don't have to worry about steering or anything."

He watched Draco reflexively close his fingers around the broom handle, and instinctively throw his leg over.

"Right, then," Harry said, grinning as he turned to face the front again. "Okay, here we go!" With that, he kicked against the ground, and they were off.

*****

As the broom lurched, Draco grabbed for the security of the body in front of him, keeping one hand clenched around the broom handle and the other tightly clamped around Harry's torso. How in hell had he let Harry talk him into this? Once he'd felt the broom in his hand, he had mounted automatically, without thinking -- but it was the last place he wanted to be.

It was true that he had missed flying. He'd been able to fly a broom as long as he could remember, and he had been especially peeved that Harry had won the house team position as a first-year, given that he knew his own skills were equally great. Whenever he'd needed a moment to himself, or had wanted to work off some frustration (usually because of Harry) he had gone flying. But since the accident, not only had he been grounded, he had tried to put flying out of his head entirely. It was useless to dwell on what he'd lost, and any memory of flight which did come to mind always ended with a sickening crunch and darkness. He'd avoided going to the pitch or attending Quidditch games, and left the room if he overheard anyone discussing anything remotely broom-related.

Yet something had drawn him down to the pitch this morning; he told himself it was just the noise in the castle, but in reality he'd wanted to know how Harry was doing. For all his inquisitiveness and other irritating habits, the Gryffindor had become a friend, someone increasingly important in Draco's life, despite his better judgment.

And speaking of going against his better judgment - here he was now on the back of Harry's broom, hanging on for dear life. He was discovering that being up in the air and unable to see was incredibly disorienting. On the ground he at least knew which way was up; here, he had no sensory cues at all, except what his confused and overworked inner ear could relay. It wasn't nearly enough. At the first turn Harry made, Draco's eyes automatically clenched shut; if he couldn't see, at least he could pretend that it was deliberate. Somehow it made it marginally easier to cope than to have wide eyes tearing up in the wind, uselessly trying to deliver information to his disoriented brain.

"You okay back there?" he heard Harry call above the wind.

"I've been better. Don't turn so much," he moaned, as he felt the broom shift again. "I might be sick."

He felt the broom level out, and his inner ear once again caught up. "Sorry about that," came the Gryffindor's voice. Draco was currently pressing the side of his face against the other boy's back; the vibrations rumbled against his cheek. "Is that better?"

"A little. Tell me if you plan to do anything else funny." His right arm tightened its grip around Harry's chest. He could feel the beating of the other boy's heart against his fingers; his own was thumping wildly in terror under his jumper. The fancier moves had not only made him dizzy, but also reminded him of his last wild chase; that episode had ended with him cracking his head. He had no idea where any obstacles were at all, no idea how high they were flying or anything at all about their position. But as the flight evened out and nothing much happened, he began to relax, fractionally.

"Malfoy, I have to turn around, I'm getting too close to the Forbidden Forest," Harry called again. "I'm going to make a turn to the right. You ready?"

"Yeah, I think so," Draco answered, bracing himself for more disorientation. But it never came. With Harry's warning he found himself leaning properly into the turn, keeping mental tabs on which way "down" was. He couldn't really tell how big a turn it was yet, but when the broom straightened out, he sat up with it, and experienced only a brief moment of confusion as his balance worked itself out again. He opened his eyes.

Nothing.

It suddenly struck Draco just how much he was missing. Not only was it much harder to keep his balance with all directions open to movement, but there was an entire perspective he had blocked from his memory. And now he was remembering. No views of the treetops, or colourful tiny landscapes below him. No racing against the birds around the castle turrets or marveling at the sea of white after a snowfall.

He shut his eyes again. It made no difference to his brain, but, as before, it somehow was easier to get over the absence if he pretended it was just temporary, under his own control - lowered eyelids, not destroyed nerve cells.

Eyes closed, and with Harry calling any other directional shifts he was making, Draco began to pay more attention to the feel of flight. The whoosh of air rushing by was liberating; the feel of the broom underneath him comforting, even though the experience could not be complete. This was where he had always enjoyed being. In the air. And this time with Harry who, for all that Draco derided him for it, gave off a feeling of security - that damn 'hero' persona he always wore. He relaxed his panic hold on the other boy, but kept his arm around him for added balance, feeling his own heart match more closely the light beat under his hand; thrilling from flight, no longer pounding in terror. Harry was still wearing his Quidditch uniform - Draco recognised the texture of the team robes and the jumper - and he was still a bit sweaty after his race for the Snitch. Leaning in against the Gryffindor's warmth, breathing in the familiar scent of hard play, Draco began to feel more like himself again. After a few more turns, and some slightly fancier moves, he decided he was up for something more.

"Take it into a dive," he called.

He felt Harry twist back slightly as if trying to look at him. "You sure?"

"Yeah. Just let me know when you're going to do it."

"Okay." There was still some doubt in the voice, but Draco knew Harry loved the daredevil movements; there was no way he'd turn down the opportunity. Sure enough: "Hang on, let me get back over the pitch; I don't fancy diving toward the lake," the Gryffindor told him. A few minutes passed, during which Harry called out a few more directional shifts. Draco almost didn't need them now; he was totally focused on the feel of the broom underneath him, and the anticipatory clues Harry's shifting body made against his.

"All right," came the warning. "I'm going ... now!"

The bottom dropped out of Draco's stomach as he felt the broom tilt steeply forward and plunge for the ground. It was a bit unnerving not to know just how far he had until impact, but he almost didn't care; in the back of his mind was the unspoken terror that he was going to smash into something, but his trust in Harry's flying skills overcame that. He simply hung on, letting gravity press him completely against the body in front of him, enjoying a thrill he had refused to think about for four long months.

In what felt like no time at all, he felt the broom level out, and suddenly slow down. "I'm going to stop now," said Harry, no longer needing to shout now that they were out of the wind. "Might as well, since we're down here already."

Draco simply nodded, forgetting for the moment that Harry had his back to him and couldn't see him either; his ears were still full of the rush of wind, and he suddenly didn't trust his voice to speak. He opened his eyes and loosened his grip around the other boy as Harry dismounted, feeling suddenly cold at the lack of body contact. Then the Gryffindor was next to him, taking Draco's hand and putting it on his shoulder to give him an idea of how far off the ground the broom was, and he was dismounting -- shaking and overwhelmed and unsure whether he was about to laugh or cry.

"Thanks, Potter," he said, brushing his hair out of his eyes with a trembling hand.

"No problem," came the reply. "I know I kind of dragged you into it, but it seems like you coped pretty well. Would you like to do it again sometime?"

He did, but-

"I'm sure you have better things to do than take me flying," Draco answered with a shrug, as reality abruptly smothered the elation he had just felt. "And besides, you do enough for me."

"So? I'm offering. And you do plenty for me, too, you know. My marks have improved and I have a better chance of passing my N.E.W.Ts since I've been working with you."

He dismissed Harry's comparison. "It's not the same. It's not like you were ever doing that badly. But you do some things for me I can't do for myself, and I hate that-" He broke off and lowered his voice. "No offense, Potter. But I just can't ask you to do anything more."

"I repeat - I'm offering. It was fun for me - I haven't flown tandem like that before, except to take Hermione up once, and it was a lot more fun to go with you, someone who understands flying."

"Someone who tries to break your ribs, you mean," he retorted, remembering, rather shamefacedly, the way he'd clutched at Harry like a terrified child.

"That was just for a few minutes. It was my fault anyway, for not telling you what I was doing. You told me yourself, that time I walked you back, that you needed to know what was going on, and I forgot."

"But I shouldn't have to be told!" Draco's hands suddenly knotted into fists. "I was a good flyer, like you, and now look at me! I need help with everything!"

"That's not true, you-"

"It is," he insisted stubbornly. A part of his mind wondered why he was telling Harry all this, but it suddenly was bubbling out of him, unstoppable. "Even when I'm doing something by myself, some charm or device or compensatory technique," he sneered at the term, "is making it possible. All those things you do without thinking, I have to think about! Without help, I can't do anything anymore. Not writing, not walking, not flying." He shook his head as the memory of soaring came back to him, fresh and bright from that afternoon's adventure. "Especially not flying," he whispered. "I haven't even tried to be on a broom since the accident but I used to fly all the time and-" suddenly his throat closed up and he had to force the words out. "-And now I can't and-"

It was all too much. Being back up in the air, doing something he had loved so fiercely, had unlocked something deep inside of him, the sense of loss he had tried to stifle for so long. He fell to the ground as his hard-won composure unraveled entirely. "Why?" he cried, the sound dissolving into a sob. "I hate this! I want to see ... everything is so hard ... you have no idea what it's like...." His hands began ripping the grass out of the damp ground in his pain, and he could hardly breathe for the sobs which tore through his chest. "I'll never play again ... and I hate having to rely on people ... and you were right, I'm alone ... all alone...."

He had never felt more miserable in his whole life, not even when the doctors had given him their prognosis. He hadn't allowed it. He had simply swallowed the news and worked to get back to normal. Only it wasn't. It would never be normal again; for the rest of his life he would be dependent - on magic, on things, on people - instead of the proud, powerful person he had been raised to be.

Harry tried to say something once, but Draco cut him off, unable to stop crying, and unwilling to hear any words the other boy might have to say. Long moments passed, during which he raved about the unfairness of it all, finally spilling everything which he had suppressed: his sense of failure and his exhaustion and his anger.

Finally, however, as the tears dwindled, he felt Harry kneel down by his side and a warm hand touch his shoulder. "Shhh. C'mon, Draco," the Gryffindor murmured. "It'll be okay."

Draco lurched away from the offered comfort. "No! No it won't! I'm going to be like this forever, struggling forever!" He tried to push against Harry, to run off and escape in his misery and mortification, but the other boy held him fast.

"Draco, please!" Harry pleaded. "Please, just ... stay here and talk to me. There's no one here. No one but us, and I promise I won't tell anyone." There was a pause. "Look, I ... you're right, I don't know what it's like. But you don't have to keep it all inside. Tell me more about what it's like. Maybe ... maybe that would help a little?"

He shook his head, rooting around in his pocket for his handkerchief. "It's not going to fix anything. I could talk 'til Longbottom got a potion right, and I still wouldn't be able to-" He wiped his nose and took a deep breath, trying to pull himself together. "Look, it wouldn't change anything."

There was another pause. Draco wished he could see what the other boy was doing; he got the impression Harry was thinking. His hand was still resting comfortably on Draco's shoulder, and Draco noticed absently that Harry must have removed his gloves at some point. Yet another thing he hadn't been able to see.

"It won't get you your eyesight back, that's true," the Gryffindor finally said. "But - I also know from experience that it's a million times harder to do something alone than with friends. When Ron was angry at me during the Tri-Wizard Tournament ... well ... I'll just say it was a lot harder to face the First Task than the others, when we'd made up. Just to feel like people understand you, or that you can complain to someone when you feel like life can't get any worse.... Look, like I said before, you have people around you. If you don't want to talk to me, maybe you could talk to one of your housemates."

Draco gave a short mirthless laugh. "Are you joking? As I said before, we're Slytherins. I don't think anyone has ever confided anything really personal to anyone else in the whole time I've been there - except maybe gossip about who's sleeping with whom."

"How about your parents?"

Another snort. "My father has all but abandoned me, now that I'm no longer fit to be a Death Eater. I think he's grooming another boy to take my place -- some fourth-year whose parents went to Azkaban."

"I should have known you were going to be a Death Eater," Harry mumbled. Then, with curiosity, "What about your mother?"

"My mother became a complete worrywart." Draco made a face. "Why do you think I'm the way I am? It's because of them. I push myself to prove to my father that I don't need him to succeed, and to stop my mother from having vapours or whatever the hell they call it."

Harry chuckled. "I'm sorry but - 'vapours'? Do people still talk like that?"

"Some do," Draco answered with a shrug. He was suddenly very tired.

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Then Harry abruptly blurted out, "I'm sorry."

He turned toward the other boy's voice. "For what?" he asked, wishing for the millionth time that he could really see him, and not just have to take a guess at his expression and body language based on his voice.

"For taking you flying. You said no, and I made you do it anyway. I thought it would be fun - give you something back, you know?" There was defeat in his voice. "I didn't mean to make you think about all the bad stuff."

"You didn't do anything," Draco answered tiredly, "so you can stop feeling guilty. I'm just messed up; it's not your fault. I just get sick of the limitations - I mean, I can't even see you, and you're sitting right there." He hauled himself to his feet. "And now that I've made a complete fool of myself, I think I'm going to go back to my room and try not to think too much."

"Wait." He heard Harry scramble to his feet. "You can."

He turned. "I can what?"

"You can see me. Remember?" He felt the other boy grasp his right hand and bring it up to his face. "Like this."

Draco froze, his hand against Harry's cheek. There it was again, that solid, real, achingly familiar face. How many times since that first time had he wanted to 'see' Harry again, instead of just relying on memory? Lots. But that had been something to do just the once, hadn't it? Just to prove he knew what Harry's expression was at that moment. You couldn't just go "So, what did you think about the latest DADA assignment and, by the way, can I touch you again so I can see what you look like right now?"

But here Harry was, offering him the chance to see him. Again. Draco's fingers tentatively skimmed the line of Harry's jaw, down to the somewhat narrow chin. He felt and heard Harry reach up and remove his glasses, the armpieces clicking as he folded them. Then, with that added permission, Draco suddenly felt free to embrace the opportunity he'd been handed; his hands roamed over the Gryffindor's full face, over his eyebrows and through a bit of his unruly fringe, sliding down the scar and then down his nose. Brushing the tips of lashes which he remembered were black, and across the windchapped lips. The mouth was calm and serious now, but he remembered seeing it laugh and frown, fall open in surprise and tighten in determination. All of it - hair, jaw, nose, mouth, scar -- fit the memory of Harry he carried around with him, bringing the images back to full focus in his mind, alive under his fingertips.

"Could I try?" Harry whispered.

Startled, Draco pulled his hands back. "Try what?"

"Could I - touch you? See you with my hands, the way you see me?"

"But you can already see me."

"It's not the same. You said I couldn't know what it was like for you. Well... I want to try. Would that be all right?"

Draco hesitated, then relented. "All right," he whispered. "Close your eyes."

He assumed Harry had done so, because the next thing he felt was a set of fingers tentatively brushing the side of his neck, as if not sure where they were going. Draco held himself perfectly still as the other boy oriented himself, feeling Harry's hands skim over his own features and following a path similar to his own explorations. Up over Draco's forehead and across his eyebrows, tracing the outline of his nose, and the groove above his lip. A colder path appeared where Harry's fingers smudged a few leftover tears off his cheeks. He had a light touch, but it drove down deep into Draco's gut, as if Harry was caressing his soul as well as his eyelids. Was this what it was like for Harry too?

"Your lips are chapped," the Gryffindor murmured eventually, one finger brushing over his mouth.

"Yours too," Draco smiled, trying not to trap Harry's finger as he spoke. "All that flying."

"Yeah, probably...." The hand moved back to his cheek and then paused there, palm cupping the side of his face. Then it withdrew.

The silence stretched around them, and Draco wasn't sure whether he wanted to break it or not. It was a moment where nothing else existed, no burdens, no people. Just them.

"I guess ... I guess we should get going," Harry muttered after a while. "It's getting cold."

Draco was suddenly aware of the chill; he wondered if it had turned cloudy, as it had been warmer earlier. "Yes, I guess so."

He heard the slight click of Harry's glasses being unfolded and presumably placed back on his face. He tried not to be envious that the other boy had use of his eyes again. "So, did you learn anything?" he asked as they began to walk back to the castle.

"Um... your nose goes slightly to the right."

The unexpected response brought forth an equally unexpected chuckle. "Fine, fine, point out my flaws."

"It's not a flaw," Harry insisted. "I just never noticed it before."

They walked back companionably, parting at the empty entrance hall.

"See you Monday, I suppose." They studied separately on Sundays.

"Sure," Draco replied. He suddenly felt like he might sleep until Monday, he was that tired after the afternoon's events. "Look, Potter, about today.... Can we just forget it ever happened?"

"If you want," Harry answered slowly. "But - well, don't take this the wrong way, but I'm sort of glad it did. You obviously have a lot on your mind."

Draco shook his head ruefully. He still wished fervently that he hadn't fallen apart like that. "I suppose," he muttered. He headed off for the Slytherin dungeons, but then turned back toward the sound of Harry's footsteps. "Hey, Potter?"

"Yes?"

"Thanks." For the flight, for listening, for letting me see you.

"Anytime."

* * * * *

Artwork: There are two drawings that go with this chapter, plus two more new, nonspecific pics for this story, which I would include here -- but because ff.net strips the tags, you will have to view the chapter at my website or at FA (Schnoogle) to see the four of them.

Thank yous: To all my wonderful reviewers: Kalandor, ElessaRia, Tine (yay for UT!), Gabi, Cerberis, zeynel, Cyn, Melissa Lupin, Sunday (lol - great pun), Otaku, Sydney Pima, meirta (thanks for coming out of lurkerdom!), Sky Chief (wow, what a beautiful analogy, thank you!), keziah (thanks for the successive reviews), Summer (awww, thanks for the cumulative review), Blake, Icy, Fyre Eye, Alle, Gen, PrettyLittleDuck, Yoink Daydurfurits, fiery frost, switchknife, felia, Belle, CrowX (I'm not a speech therapist anymore, but I used to be), Nichneven (awww, thanks for the clapping! - and your words about my writing in general made me blush), Jade Maxwell, Dani (hey, there has to be *some* suspense *g*), and Portuguese-GirL. Also to the FA/LJ reviewers, who are listed over there, and to anyone else I accidentally left out. A special chocolate-covered thank-you goes to Rowenna, who reviewed everything I ever posted here. I loved all your comments. (Liss also thanks you, for the Sep/Reunion feedback). And yes, spelling is important to me! *g*

As always, any feedback, either positive or constructive, is welcome. Thank you.