Reminding himself to draw his shoulders back, Draco stepped into the Great Hall.
It looked exactly like it had two days ago. And that felt odd. Because with what had changed in those few hours he'd almost expected there to be some sort of visible change too. There wasn't, of course. People were still enjoying their breakfast, laughing, complaining about homework, discussing Quidditch, studying The Prophet. Like everything was still normal.
He kept his face blank as he crossed the room, making his stride appear confident. There were some whispers around him again, but it didn't really take much effort to ignore it. He supposed, most wizards wouldn't mind a Pixie tugging on their ear while being cornered by a Werewolf.
"Draco. You're up." Pansy's stare was scrutinizing. He didn't need Legilimency to know she hadn't for one second believed him to be sick. Draco didn't have any delusions what had made her cease her harassment of his door either. She had never been a patient person. Which, in this case, was quite fortunate. Because there had been times when he'd thought he'd heard a clicking sound and had almost expected the bloody door to let him down and spring open by accident. He knew it was ticklish right below the handle.
"I can't possibly let them alone with my Potion, can I?", he said, sitting down, snorting softly. "At this rate they manage to blow it up while lighting …"
He hadn't meant to look up.
"… the fire."
He certainly hadn't wanted to lock eyes with him.
And he most definitely hadn't planned for the wall he'd built to crumble like a sandcastle hit by the flood, leaving his mind to get dragged back to the realisation that scared him so much he wasn't sure any Boggart would turn into the Dark Lord for him any more.
"You do look pale", Pansy said, sounding uncertain. "Are you really ill?"
"I'm fine", he said, averting his gaze to his empty plate, flinching, when Pansy put her arm around his shoulder. "Don't let the stupid rumour get to you", she whispered. "They'll forget about it soon enough, if we just act like usual. I'm right, you'll see."
But Pansy was right.
That, just there, was exactly the problem.
He grabbed a butter roll and started to pluck at it to keep his hands from covering his tired eyes, which was something Malfoys didn't do in public. Probably. Honestly, he wasn't sure if it was his place to tell what Malfoys did and didn't do any more. Because what he'd done was something his father would, no doubt, have had him disinherited for, if he hadn't already lost everything when they'd carried him off to Azkaban. As it was now, he'd likely just curse his guts inside out, if he ever found out.
Pansy was bloody right.
"Well, isn't it nice to see our lovely couple back together?"
Blaise was smirking at them, his chin propped up on one hand. Draco hadn't noticed him scoot over.
"Don't you just hate those unfounded rumours?", he continued.
"Since when do you care, Blaise?", Pansy asked, raising an eyebrow. "Just go back to gossiping with the other idiots."
Blaise sat back, smirking. "There's power in knowledge", he said, shrugging. "I thought, you, at least, could relate. So, where have you been, Draco?"
Draco could think of a few circumstances which would have him tell Blaise the truth.
They all circled around Cruciatus Curses and Veritaserum.
Then he'd probably tell about how he'd been pacing in his room, imagining ways to hurt Potter for having the audacity to force a kiss on him. How he'd watched the clouds in his enchanted window, pitying the Cheng girl for the terrible kisser he was. How he'd halted, thinking what had happened had actually been a violent assault he should report. How he'd sat in his chair, figuring Potter's stupid lips could have used some lipbalm. How he'd laid on his bed, picturing what it should have been like instead. How he'd snapped his eyes open, realising he was imagining kissing Potter. How his stomach sank, when he noticed the feeling accompanying the thought was very different from disgust. How he'd rolled around, desperately trying to hold on to denial. And how, hours later, he'd hugged his pillow and curled into a ball, when he finally failed at it.
"Sick", he said, ignoring the disappointment on Blaise's face when he didn't say any more.
"Ah, that's tough. Although, I'm glad it's not about the Dragon Dung some people tell."
Blaise was still looking at him expectantly, smirking one of his many smug smiles he was too tired to distinguish, so Draco just raised his brows a him.
"Of course not."
After he'd stayed silent for a while Blaise seemed to get the hint.
"Good, good. Well, I'll see you in Potions then", he said and stood, grinning at them broadly before turning.
"What's up with him?" Pansy shook her head, watching Blaise leave the hall. "I think I've never heard him not talk about himself."
"It's Blaise, how would we know?"
He could tell Pansy hadn't let it go yet by the awfully slow pace she was chewing her toast. Or maybe she was just thinking about something else. He found it difficult to care about the Pixie tugging on his other ear.
Right now he had the Werewolf to worry about.
Draco threw his quill down next to the parchment, for the first time understanding the urge to tousle up his hair in frustration.
This wasn't working.
He dared a glance to his left where Potter sat hunched over the desk, his eyes focused on Advanced Potion-Making and quickly turned away again, jaw clenching.
How was it possible that Potter managed to concentrate on Potions today, while he … Well, The Weird Sisters certainly failed to hold his attention enough to distract him from the fact that he was doing a poor job trying to act normal.
He frowned at the lines. His usually elegant writing had turned out all scrawly and he thought the tip might have punched through the parchment here and there. His fingers were much too stiff and as if that wasn't enough his palms had started to feel a little sweaty. And Malfoy's never … Ah, well, he'd been over that.
Maybe he could try to write the lyrics backwards? Maybe then he'd forget about how nervous he was.
Someone brushed his shoulder rushing by and he noticed Longbottom was already up to get his cauldron. He quickly stood and followed suit, taking a deep breath.
He could do this. He just had to calm down.
And it wasn't like there was a sign on his back telling Potter about his revelation. There was no way he'd know. He wasn't going to do something stupid like tell him. Stupid was for Gryffindors.
"I won't jump you, you know."
He'd returned with the cauldron and was in the middle of starting the fire. Potter's voice was soft, so he took a minute to realise he'd spoken.
"I mean, you don't have to be on your toes just being next to me."
"As I recall it was you on your toes. I am quite a bit taller", he said then.
There had to be an insult somewhere in there. There definitely had been in his head.
"You know what I mean", Potter mumbled, looking away. "I, er, won't … do that again."
Draco thought he had had a similar look the night they'd met in the dungeons, when he'd told him they'd never talk to each other like normal people. And Potter wouldn't finish the sodding sentence.
He'd thought his somewhat crestfallen expression hadn't made much sense back then and it most definitely didn't now. After all pressing his mouth to his had been Potter's shit idea in the first place.
"You better not", Draco said and frowned when he thought he saw the other boy's lips go even thinner. But then the Gryffindor turned away and he wasn't sure any more if he'd imagined it.
If Potter did do it again, he feared what he might do in response.
"You are certain you didn't smudge them?"
The librarian peered at him unsmiling and Draco stared back at her.
"I didn't", he pressed out for what felt like the 20th time. Madam Pince still proceeded to flip the pages.
"Did you bend or rip the pages?
Deface the books in any possible way?
"You missed the deadline by a week", she said dryly, as if that proved he'd been busy doodling all over it.
"I told you. I misplaced them."
His mouth had long since twisted into a grim line, showing his annoyance. It didn't matter much since his winning smile had done nothing for Madame Pince anyway.
After a while she finally put her wand aside and closed the book gently. Draco couldn't help raising his eyebrows watching her pat the cover.
"I am aware you only have about half a year left on this premises, Mr Malfoy, but, rest assured, I will make certain said months won't be pleasant, if I should find you mistreating any more of the books."
He quickly bit his tongue. The woman had a very sharp sense of hearing, so he was sure she'd chosen to ignore all the times he'd told her he hadn't fucking done anything to her books. Salazar, he hadn't even read them.
The smart thing would have been to have Longbottom return them. But the moron, having more luck than brains again, had chosen the one moment when Draco hadn't been able to think clearly to stuff them into his hands.
"You'd better get out now. Go on. Out."
She finally took her vulture-like eyes off him, turning her back on him and he quickly left, shooting her a last dark look.
This had taken much to long. He'd promised Pansy to meet her in the Common Room after Potions and was surprised she hadn't already come to look for him, whining about his tardiness.
His Draught not turning out to be a complete disaster had been the bigger surprise, though. Considering their repeated attempts to ruin it.
Every time Potter had moved to add ingredients, Draco had halted in his stirring, almost forgetting the count. The Gryffindor for his part had kept fetching wrong ingredients until Draco had suspected him of doing it on purpose to spend more time away. They hadn't talked, which had made Potter cut the Lovage wrong and since Draco had refused to lean over him, preferring to walk around the desk to get the Shrivelfigs, he'd added them late.
Slughorn's frown, when he'd handed in the vial, had confirmed his assumption that it wasn't one of his better works, though it still didn't compare to McMillan and Longbottom's creation. They just had to have scooped up some of the Weasley's Portable Swamp. The resemblance had been rather uncanny.
Draco rounded the corner, halting abruptly when he noticed there really was someone waiting for him. And the person was angry alright. It was hard to miss with the clenched fists, the furrowed brows shadowing his eyes and the deep wrinkles between them.
It wasn't Pansy, though.
"Potter", he said, feeling his body tense up again.
The Gryffindor closed the distance between them quickly, coming at him like Goyle heading for his stolen dessert. "You!", he called, pushing a finger against his chest. "What is wrong with you?"
Draco felt the blood drain from his face.
"I –", he fell silent, not knowing what to say.
Was it possible Potter had found out this quickly? He hadn't done that bad of a job, had he?
"You what?" Potter's eyes flashed and Draco swallowed. He hadn't seen him this furious for a long time. And Potter probably was right to be disgusted by a Death Eater feeling this way about him, too. His gut still twisted painfully.
"I didn't mean to – "
Potter laughed and it was like he'd driven the finger he'd held to his chest into his knotted stomach.
"How stupid do you think I am?", he snapped. "I know you had to mean it."
Draco stared at the Gryffindor's flushed face. He may be wrong to feel this way, but this … This was taking it too far.
"And how would I do that? Enlighten me", he said dryly. Madame Pince would be proud.
But Potter ignored him.
"Merlin, the crazy things I did…." He ran his hand through his hair. "And all this time it was you making me do them. Having Hermione brew Polyjuice Potion, hugging you drenched in bloody Armadillo bile to hide the scent. Always worrying you'd find out. And the best part..."
He shook his head, as if he couldn't yet believe it himself.
"You tell me you thought Hermione had impersonated Pansy, giving me the impossible task of making her confess, when in truth you already knew it was me. That's why you always came after me instead of just jinxing her, didn't you? To torture me." He laughed. But it was far from his light-hearted laugh that Draco had come to like.
"And, of course, that's how you knew I wasn't straight, too, since you're a bloke."
Potter's hair was ruffled worse than ever, and Draco regarded him in disbelief. Out of the jumble of words that didn't make much sense there was only one thing that stuck.
"You? It was you?", he asked. But the small voice in his subconsciousness which, he now realised, hadn't been completely happy with his own theories so far had already welcomed the answer, finally shutting up.
Potter hesitated for a bit, then rolled his eyes. "You can drop the act already. Come on, tell me. Why did you do it? You still hate me that much? Is that it?"
It was like doing a pop-quiz after having missed two months of class. "Did what?", he asked, struggling to avoid taking an involuntarily step back when he caught Potter's expression.
"You really want me to spell it out for you?", he growled. "Fine."
"I know about the books, Malfoy. Myrtle overheard Neville warn you this Wednesday and I saw what you wrote today in Potions, because you forgot to vanish the parchment this time."
Draco quickly realised he couldn't at all remember what Longbottom had said, since it had seemed very unimportant in comparison to Potter smashing his lips to his. This was getting worse by the sentence.
"It was part of the incantation you used, wasn't it? Does it work better if I'm sitting close to you?"
Draco blinked. "The incantation …" He usually didn't feel that slow. "You mean Magic Works?", he asked then.
Now it was Potter gaping at him. "You already knew it bloody worked!"
Draco snorted. "Do you have no general knowledge, Potter?", he said, feeling his favourite sneer return. What was Weasley teaching him? How could anyone not know the Weird Sisters' most popular song?
The Gryffindor's jaw clenched and this time Draco couldn't make his feet stay put.
"I do know some things", he replied, his voice low, but trembling with suppressed emotions. "I know enchantments can be lifted, Malfoy. And I'll go visit Madame Pomfrey right now to get her to remove every spark of whatever bollocks love spell you've used on me."
A few puzzle pieces fell into place then and Draco grew still.
It was one matter for Longbottom to sputter nonsense about him enchanting Potter, but Potter himself had to know he hadn't done anything like it. He had to feel it.
"Very good, Potter", he said, slowly. "But I'm afraid Pomfrey won't be able to help with your problem. You see, she'd have mended Longbottom's brain years ago."
Draco had been ready to duck out of the way. And he thought, Potter likely would have thrown a punch at him, if McGonagall hadn't passed by right then.
"I trust everything is alright, Mr Malfoy? Mr Potter?", she asked, eyebrows arched high, her stern look more piercing then usual. It was one he knew very well. He'd learned to recognise disappointment at an early age.
Draco formed his mouth into a small smirk. "Of course, Professor."
Potter made no effort to hide his anger. "It will be", he said, before stalking off, barely avoiding bumping his shoulder.
Draco stared after him, watching his flapping robe until he was out of sight.
He had to know there was no spell.
How did he not realise he didn't feel anything?
Draco hadn't noticed before, but there was a faint, warm, somewhat fuzzy sensation in his stomach now.