Pervinco IX (b): Between the Acts

The crowd inside the Centre was much larger than the day before, and Harry had been glad to leave it behind. The Malfoy marquee was quiet in comparison to the riotous atmosphere of the main hall with its flights of illusionary owls and snitches – Harry had found the knee-high figures re-enacting famous duels and other scenes particularly un-nerving – where they'd left a relatively united group of Hogwarts students enjoying the carnival. It wasn't until Harry and Hermione moved into the main area of the marquee, a garden setting more extensive than the exterior should have allowed, that Harry began to wish they'd stayed with the others.

Mrs Malfoy led them across the grass, a hand in the crook of Harry's arm, which he realised gave the impression of him leading her, not the other way around. As she said how pleased they were he could come, and how she'd been following his progress with interest, they came to a group centred on Professor Sinistra, who greeted Hermione enthusiastically and welcomed Harry too.

They were offered drinks and food that Harry barely looked at before declining. Perhaps he should have come with Severus, but of course he was annoyed with Severus and wasn't about to ask for his help.

At his side again, Mrs Malfoy said, "Please let the staff know if you'd prefer something else, Mr Potter."

"I'm fine, thank you."

"I've never been a sports enthusiast myself, but I would very much like to see the finals this evening. Unfortunately, I've no tolerance for one social event after another these days so I'll have to wait on news of your success at home."

Harry couldn't help returning her smile, at least a little. "You don't expect Draco to win then, Mrs Malfoy?"

"I expect one of you to win," she said pleasantly, "so I know I won't be disappointed. And please, call me Narcissa. After all, my son is a supplicant for your consensio, and I therefore hope to see much more of you."

Before Harry could reply, Professor Sinistra joined them.

"Narcissa, have I told you how exceptionally Ravenclaw is performing?"

"I'm pleased to hear it, Celeste."

"Of the top twelve duellists, four were from Ravenclaw – half of all the Hogwarts students – and we've had finalists in every exhibition."

"That is impressive – and how many have you won?"

"Well, Hermione Granger is an honorary Ravenclaw."

"Would you say so, Mr Potter?"

"Oh," Harry said. "Um, please call me Harry."

"I'm honoured. Harry is too polite to say so, Celeste, but Miss Granger is as yet certainly a Gryffindor, as is the Parvati girl who won Divination and the boy everybody says will clearly win Herbology. What is his name, Harry?"

"That would be Neville Longbottom," Harry said, with more enjoyment than he probably should, adding, "Narcissa," a little uncomfortably.

"I'm sure Terry Boot has an excellent chance in Potions, and also in the duel; as does Cho Chang," Sinistra said, looking back at Cho on the other side of their small cluster, glowing as usual in the formal version of her white gown, her hair piled high in shining curls.

"She's beautiful," Narcissa conceded. "Don't you think so, Harry?"

"Oh," he said with surprise. "Yes. Of course." Professor Sinistra didn't look especially pleased with his response. "And a very good duellist," he added.

"I'm sure. Celeste, I was so sorry to hear about the accident with Miss Chang's wand. Draco assured me he had just over-estimated something or other about her likely response. I can't quite remember what, you know what a head I've always had for these things."

"Yes, Narcissa, I recall perfectly." Professor Sinistra smiled thinly at Harry. "I suppose we will see how things turn out in the end. Now I really should go and talk to Professor Flitwick," she said, looking to where he was standing near the entrance. "He seems quite alone."

They watched her walk away in silence. Harry glanced at Narcissa's long fingers flexing slightly against her pale grey robe and wondered if he dared ask if she didn't like Professor Sinistra. It was a ridiculous thought as he knew quite well she wouldn't give him a useful answer.

"She's a very capable woman," Narcissa said without prompting. "And those are always so dangerous, don't you think?"

He met her eyes, searching for the right version of 'why would you say that to me,' when a too familiar voice behind them said, "Hello my dear, I'm so pleased you found Mr Potter."

Lucius Malfoy came around the other side of his wife and gave Harry what probably passed for a welcoming smile, although to Harry it looked entirely threatening. Narcissa excused herself to welcome some new arrivals.

Harry immediately looked for Hermione, who was in a close conversation with Cho and a tall young man with deeply tanned skin. She wasn't looking his way.

"Celeste is always so solicitous of poor Filius, isn't she?"

"Well, they're friends," Harry said, immediately wishing he hadn't answered. "And he's still in mourning for his wife – who was killed by Death Eaters last Christmas, you'd remember that," Harry added as bluntly as he could.

"Of course, I read about it," Malfoy said, and Harry looked at him sharply because it sounded like he was smiling, but he looked quite solemn. "A tragedy."

"Did you want to talk to me about something, Mr Malfoy?"

The man angled his head back in a smile. "To the point, Mr Potter. A trifle rude, but practical."

Harry firmly instructed himself not to look away and not to show fear, and realised that he had begun the much practiced repression charm without thinking. He couldn't help an urge to smile at the thought that Severus would be pleased, and a strange look crossed Malfoy's face.

"I wanted to speak with you about Draco."

Harry looked back to the entryway and, as if on cue, Draco came in, still wearing that infuriatingly sexy black and silver costume. He really was such a show off. Illusory sunlight rippled a gleam across the supple hide.

"What about Draco?" Harry said. Behind more arrivals he didn't recognise, he saw Severus Snape's tall profile and looked back at Draco's father with a sudden rush of confidence.

"I feel I owe you an apology," Malfoy said, and Harry was sure he must have looked shocked. "I have rather pushed you and my son together."

Harry watched as Draco was approached by a group of young men, of whom Harry only recognised Blaise. They were clearly admiring his duelling costume, and Harry thought Draco seemed particularly bored, although he'd likely practiced that look for ages.

"However, on reflection," Malfoy said smoothly, "there's no point going against a young man's heart."

Severus moved away from the entrance, nodding and speaking to a few people, and Harry watched him faintly hesitate as he saw Draco. After a moment Severus turned aside to speak to a passing couple, just as Lucius said, "So I've decided to reach an agreement with Severus for Draco's immediate future. I thought you should be told."

* * *

Draco watched Severus come towards him, glanced away so as not to watch Severus coming towards him, and nervously looked around at who might see them meet. Harry, walking from Lucius towards Granger, glancing his way. Lucius himself, one eye on him discreetly as he bowed ostentatiously to the Lady Allen. Narcissa, who would know somehow, even though she appeared to be preoccupied by flirting with Flitwick.

"Congratulations, Draco."

"Thank you, Sir."

"Could I speak with you for a moment?"

Draco glanced around again, as if for some objection or reason but he was always going to say yes. He walked a little to one side, noticed several people register their movements.

"Your performance in the Potions grading this morning was very creditable."

Draco didn't respond, but he did look more directly at Severus, who was looking at him intently. That wasn't unusual, but for once he wasn't sure of the nature of the intensity.

"I've never myself used Featherfoil in a general healing potion, but I can certainly see why it would be effective." When Draco still didn't reply, he added, "I would be very surprised if you were not placed first at the end of the grading."

"Thank you, Professor Snape."

"And of course you've progressed as expected in the duel, although I find the arena mentality rather tiresome myself. I trust you will also compete in Combined Magics this afternoon, which I think does look like a real challenge."

As Severus spoke, Draco watched his eyes never quite rest on him – not just watching others watch them but actually not looking at him. The slight discomposure set something crawling under Draco's skin. "Did you want something, Severus?" he said, and their eyes met again.

"Draco," Severus said, in a low even register, and hesitated. "How are you?"

The crawling feeling was chased by a hot flush of anger. It was too much and not enough for Severus to say to him, here, in this space, with all these people watching and waiting and some of them knowing more than they should. With a subtle intake of breath he said, as lightly as he could, "He's a surprisingly good lover, if that's what you wanted to know."

"I can assure you it's not."

Draco couldn't think what it was he felt – it was just a huge something, hot and mobile.

* * *

Remus watched from the entryway, where the attendant patiently ignored him after he said he didn't have an invitation but was waiting for someone who did. Draco turned and walked away from Severus towards the farthest end of the marquee. He had perhaps looked a little pale, but it had already been a long day.

He could admit to a little relief when Severus finally reached him. The curious looks of those inside and those with invitations were discomfitting. Although probably, he thought with some amusement, no one here cared that he was a werewolf so much as they cared that he lived on a teacher's salary with only personal possessions to his name.

The attendant accepted Severus's explanation with only a flicker of surprise and they entered. A waiter offered drinks and though he wouldn't usually he took wine. Severus took food from the next silent waiter and immediately passed it to Remus, turning to greet an acquaintance before Remus could express his irritation.

Remus saw Harry across the way, hands clasped behind his back and eyes somewhat lowered. Remus doubted if he heard more than half of whatever Oliver Wood was saying to him.

"Narcissa is following Draco now," Severus said quietly from just behind him. "My business with Lucius will not take long. Be quick. And don't offend her."

Letting go of an urge to growl, Remus left his glass with the nearest waiter on his way through the gathering crowd.

* * *

"You brought a pet, Severus. How quaint."

"Very droll. While I'm free, perhaps we could find somewhere to talk privately?"

"Rather singular of you to bring your competitor and someone I despise to my party, Severus. It seems worth mentioning."

"Perhaps there's somewhere else we could discuss this?"

"This may be a temporary space, but it's a Malfoy space, Severus, we can talk privately here. Perhaps no one else can, but we can. Tell me though, where has your vicious hound trotted off to now?"

"Chasing your wife down, I believe. He wants to be charming."

Lucius coughed slightly into his hand and smiled widely. "How very amusing. I am glad you brought him."

"I live to entertain. But you shouldn't underestimate Lupin's importance. He's increasingly important to Dumbledore, who has confidence in him, so I wouldn't treat his interest in Draco quite so lightly. He's not easily mined for information."

Lucius didn't respond, which was an acknowledgement of sorts between men who'd known each other a long time.

"I believe you have something for me," Severus said, after a pause in which a waiter passed them both by with only a glance. Lucius unfurled a hand, on which appeared a thin scroll. Severus took it with care, and slipped it into the side pocket of his robe.

"You're not going to read it now?" They exchanged familiar smiles. "I warn you, I've been working on an ink that casts Imperius as you read it."

"You've been working on that since you were fifteen," Severus replied easily.

"It will be my master work," Lucius said, beckoning a waiter. "A glass of Frontignac, Severus? I recall it was once a favourite."

"I find it too sweet for a more experienced palate," Severus said, taking the glass anyway.

"Which reminds me that you faithfully promised to come and have dinner with us."

"I doubt that I did, but I'd be most pleased to, of course."

"And will you bring your new eromenos?" Lucius turned directly to where Harry was staring at them. The boy looked away. "So is he as innocent as he seems, Severus? You never did say."

"I doubt Draco would appreciate his accompanying me to a family dinner."

"Draco will need to learn to share your attentions, assuming we reach an agreement."

"And you would consign him to that?"

"It's occurred to me lately that Draco needs some abject lessons in his own interests."

"I would have thought that described most of his childhood."

Lucius smiled, turning his glass in the light. "You are attached to him, then. It's good to know."

Severus sipped his wine, and looked at it with distaste. "Definitely too sweet for a mature palate. Perhaps you might discuss Daffyd Hawkes with me while I find some tea."

* * *

In the service run behind the marquee Narcissa Malfoy came upon Remus Lupin embracing her son without any expression of surprise and without hastening her gait. Remus held her eyes for the minute Draco would allow himself to pretend he didn't know she was there, and when the boy breathed out heavily against his shoulder he stepped back, keeping a hand on Draco's shoulder, and inclined his head to her.

"Mrs Malfoy."

"Professor Lupin," she said, as her son turned to face her, his expression calm.

"Mother, you look wonderful. The grey suits you."

"And you look stunning, my dear," she said, holding out her hand, and he went to her, glancing only momentarily at Remus. "I knew it would suit you," she said.

"I guessed that you had chosen it. Hartwood has the money but no taste."

"On the subject of which," Narcissa said, running a hand through Draco's hair, "where is Miss Parkinson?"

"She objected to rumours concerning my sexual tastes," Draco said, his amusement clear.

"Or at least to your not refuting them," his mother said with the merest hint of a reprimand.

"Mrs Malfoy. . ."

"Ah, the teacher who seduced my son. What a pleasure to meet you again, Professor Lupin."

"Please, call me Remus."

Narcissa Malfoy laughed, and it wasn't a particularly pleasant sound. "Of course. Why not."

"Mother. Please."

Narcissa drew her wand, and Remus schooled himself not to flinch because Draco didn't, but he knew his uncertainty was obvious. She swept the wand in a broad arc and what she said was familiar and strange at the same time.

"Draco?" she said, immediately her wand was lowered.

"I want the apartment in Paris that came to me as a Rite gift," Draco said quickly. "Remus can get me a place at Paris I, and university suits me more than anything else right now. Mother," he said, putting a hand on her wrist, "will you help?"

She took a small step away, out of his tentative embrace. "I'd thought perhaps you'd taken an interest in teaching."

"I don't think it's really my style."

"I'm sure if Severus can manage. . ." she said, her hands running through the folds of her robe and her eyes pulling up to Remus again. "It's not only your life at stake in this, Draco."

"Did you want me to be selfless now?"

She smiled rather more warmly and put the wand away. "Certainly not. But I'll have to consider it carefully. This is not just a favour I can do for you because I wish it."

Draco moved to put an arm around her waist again and press a kiss to her jaw.

"I was looking forward to having you at home," she said, glancing at Remus and turning away. "I'll owl you." At the entry to the main marquee she said, "Make sure you speak to your father before you leave, Draco."

* * *

A couple of servants wandered by in the other direction, waiting till the mistress was well out of sight to laugh and eat the leftovers on their trays.

It went better than Draco expected, really. Everyone was still human, for a start. In a temper his mother was inclined to vindictive transfiguration, although he vaguely recalled that her specialty was actually Divination.

"Draco?"

He turned back into Remus's arms and let the warmth and the scent drift through his mind. A stubbled chin, a soft creased mouth, brushed over his forehead. Remus was never smooth.

"Do you want to leave now?"

"Duels," Draco said. "And Combined Magics."

"Is it important enough?" Remus asked, still warmly wetly moving across his face.

"You know I have to," Draco laughed. Remus pulled back and looked at him. "I'm not a boy, Remus, I know what I need to do."

Remus nodded and then they were kissing, hard and open and soft and fast, and when Remus broke away Draco nearly laughed at his look of surprised arousal. Different, and he knew it. That was different.

"Is it a shield or a conceal spell?" Remus said.

"Conceal. It's her own design. We have a least ten minutes more, I'd say. Did you have something in mind?"

Remus put his hands to the leather fastenings of Draco's smooth black trousers and kissed him back into the taut canvas wall.

* * *

Somewhat obscured by the heavy blue curtain at the rear of the podium, Harry watched Draco move through the crowd of people congratulating him. Madame Vermeel – he knew her because she'd presented him with his prize for the exhibition in Combined Magics – was clearly still trying to convince Draco to attach the ornamental pin to his duelling costume. With a disarming smile Draco finally allowed her to pin it in place and she let him go on to someone else.

Ron clambered up the side of the podium. "Are you sure, Harry? Last chance."

"I thought last time was the last chance."

"Well the last last chance – c'mon Harry, it's family or Hogwarts and we're the family option." He gestured at the huddle of Weasleys and Hermione, standing smiling by the main doors. George bounced impatiently and Bill thwacked him in the arm. They were all understandably happy, after all the trouble with Ron and Hermione things must seem better. Arthur and Percy were joining them now and Hermione looked their way expectantly.

"Ron," Harry said, "I'm sure." Harry looked pointedly over at Draco amongst his admirers, and then at Severus, in the far corner, talking to Dumbledore near the archway. He really didn't want to make it that obvious, but Ron would worry and then Hermione would worry, which was much more of a problem because she would want him to actually explain and if she was really concerned it might carry over to Mrs Weasley, which didn't bear thinking about.

"Are you really sure?" Ron asked, glancing back at his family, where Hermione and his mother were showing Percy the ring.

"You don't want to know how sure I am."

"No," his friend laughed, "probably not. Good luck then," he said, "but be careful Harry. I don't know that Snape would really share well, let alone Malfoy."

"What? No!" Harry went furiously red. "I never meant. . . I need to talk to Draco," he said with emphasis, "that's all."

"Okay," Ron said, leaping down to the floor, "and that can't wait till tomorrow?"

Harry faltered, but Ron was grinning. "Just go, Ron," he said, "and congratulations!"

"I bet I'm the only guy being applauded for coming second," Ron said happily. "Twice."

"See you tomorrow night, Ron." And his friend was gone, a red head bouncing through the dispersing crowd

Ron's departure left only Terry Boot and Draco from the final four. The boy from the College of Merlin had disappeared with his schoolmates half an hour ago at least. Terry was bailed up in a corner being interviewed by Rita Skeeter for The Witches Weekly and Draco was apparently supposed to talk to every senior wizard still in the Centre.

Putting a hand to his own pin – gold and green glass, at least he assumed it was green glass, it would be really disturbing if it was anything more expensive, though he wasn't sure why – Harry decided to wait some more. He wasn't about to let Severus not see him tonight, and he really did need to talk to Draco, because he didn't want things going on like this for any longer.

They'd been cut from the Potions final at the same time – Harry on points and Draco for using a rain charm which the judges said meant he'd illegally added water, an ingredient not on the prescribed list. Although Draco didn't speak to him then he did smile, more or less, as they were leaving the room. And Draco had still been there applauding when Harry won the Combined exhibition by breaching the magical shield of a girl named Oona, even though he'd been excluded two rounds before when his Patronus spell took too long to work. Harry had tried to talk to him then, but Professor Flitwick and Dr Hawkes had caught him up in a conversation about whether or not girls could perform aggressive magic, and he'd lost him in the crowd.

Then Severus had arrived and Harry had forgotten to keep looking because Professor Snape had put a hand on his arm in public. Arthur and Molly Weasley had taken a unified step back in surprise as Severus said, "Very well done, Harry." Harry rather hoped Draco hadn't seen the way he blushed.

From his vantage point, Harry watched Draco pull free of the crowd once more with a gesture in the direction of the bathroom. An exchange Harry couldn't hear suddenly focussed much of the attention on Lucius Malfoy, who led the dedicated core of the crowd away, clearly expounding on what it took to be a wizarding champion these days. Harry slipped down the back of the podium and towards the bathroom.

Entering the hall Harry was stopped by the couple embracing near the door. Sangermano's hands were at Draco's waist and running through his hair.

"Draco," Harry said, and as the other man pulled back Draco staggered against the wall and Harry went to him without thinking.

There was a sharp black pain behind his eyes and a wave of dizziness. As it cleared he heard Sangermano say, "So glad you could join us, Harry," in his most charming voice, as if he wasn't dragging Harry Potter into a men's bathroom, pushing a stumbling Draco Malfoy before them.

Draco stumbled into the hand-basin and Sangermano drew Harry in and shut the door.

"Stay there," he said, and Harry was almost too surprised by the apparent assumption that he wouldn't fight back to actually draw his wand. Sangermano moved back to Draco, wrapping an arm around his waist to pull him upright and cupping his face with one hand.

"It wouldn't have come to this Draco," Sangermano said, putting his fingers to the ornamental pin gently, "if you hadn't been. . ."

Harry stunned him, crossed the floor to Draco, who was still clinging to the basin, and tore the pin from the leather with some difficulty. When it finally came free Draco collapsed against him and, just in case, with his other hand Harry tore his own pin from the unresisting silk.

Draco started to find his feet a little as they stepped around Sangermano's prone form and by the time they reached the door he turned back and said, weakly, "Bind the bastard as well, will you?"

Harry had cast the spell, his free hand still supporting Draco, when the door behind them flew open, admitting three figures in Death Eater masks.

* * *

"Drop your wand," the nearest man said, and Harry did, but at the last moment cast Stupefy, a move he'd actually been practicing for the duel but couldn't remember during the competition. The first man fell but the second hit Harry with a curse he only partly deflected, sending his left arm instantly numb, as the third caught him with something else. He was collapsing before he heard Draco say, "Let me help."

There was a brief conversation that he could barely hear let alone understood and then Draco was pulling him to his feet. On the floor below, sort of swimming into view, he saw his green and gold pin and remembered the darked-haired girl with blue eyes whose shield he'd pierced with a shattering charm to win it. Had she known; did they all know? He couldn't move, but his head span out of control with possibilities.

". . . you'd have to let him move though," Draco was saying.

"It'd be safer to float him," a rather familiar voice said.

"You can't Apparate with a floating body," Draco said, in a bored and irritated tone.

"Sure you can," another said, and Harry felt a tingle in the ends of his toes and his right hand twitched.

"And you're going to attempt it with three of us and three floating bodies," Draco said incredulously.

"We're not taking the Italian."

"So what was his role, then?"

"We can't just stand around here, Draco," the voice he almost knew said.

Harry tried to remember what had happened to his wand, felt Draco slightly widen his stance, and then he also heard them coming, just before the door opened. A rush of curses flew and Harry desperately tried to raise his eyes to see Severus and he was sure it was Remus too and then as Draco was tugged in one direction he felt himself pushed in another.

"I've got you, Harry," Remus said softly and he managed to roll his eyes up to see Draco held firmly between two masked men, one of whom drew Draco close just as the other Apparated. Harry heard another curse and there was a horrifying wet noise. The Death Eater holding Draco momentarily adjusted his grip as he raised his wand and, suddenly, Draco lunged forward.

One stumbling step from the man's grasp Draco clasped his hands together, clearly said "Home," and vanished.

As Draco had moved Remus did too, and Harry fell to the floor, hearing Snape's voice rise in anger. Harry hoped it wasn't an Unforgiveable, just as the thud of the tiled floor hit him.

* * *

Harry pulled himself from the narrow sofa and dragged himself towards the raised voices coming through a partly open door on a bright bar of light.

"How did the boy come to have such a thing in the first place?"

"We should be very happy that he did," Dumbledore said.

"He's awake," Remus said as Harry pushed open the door to find himself in Dumbledore's office. Severus, Remus, Dumbledore, Fudge, and Madame Pomfrey.

"Where's Draco?" Harry said, surprised at the stickiness of his lips and the sound of his voice.

"How are you feeling now, Mr Potter?" Minister Fudge said, as both Severus and Madame Pomfrey got to their feet. "Your assistance is sorely needed in sorting out this confusion."

"Where's Draco?" Harry rasped to Severus, who already had a hand under his arm.

"Accio water," Severus said, catching a flask just as Harry leant heavily against his arm.

Harry drank greedily from the flask as Severus held it, licking the cool not quite fresh taste into his swollen lips.

"The ring should have taken him home," Severus said, "but his mother says he never arrived."

Harry tried to smile through a headache that was desperately trying to work its way out from his brain through his eyes. "Idiot," he said softly.

"I'm going to let that pass as you're recovering from a particularly nasty combination of curses," Severus said, allowing Harry to lean more closely against him, his head more or less resting on his shoulder now.

Fudge coughed in a disapproving way, he saw Madame Pomfrey coming with a blanket and a bowl in her arms, and Remus asked what he meant as if from far away.

"That's not his home," Harry said, and Remus was already out of the chair and to the door as Harry's eyes closed involuntarily.

* * *

Remus checked the wards on his rooms and there was nothing, but there wouldn't be. He took a second to put his hand to the door.

The rush of scent told him first, and Remus untensed in relief. Draco was sitting in the window seat in the unlit room, the moon in his hair identifying the huddled silhouette.

Remus closed the door behind him softly.

"I'm as surprised as you are," Draco said, without turning to look at him.

When he reached him, Draco was still staring out of the window, wrapped in his old black school robe, his hair in disarray. "It's probably based on place of residence," Remus said, although he wanted to touch him more than he wanted to figure it out.

"No. I looked it up when he first gave it to me. It's my perception of home."

"And it was Hogwarts?"

Draco turned to look at him, his face that preternatural calm he now associated with Draco's angry distress. "Oh it gets worse than that," he said, and the cold light pattern by the windows ran across his face and shoulder as he rose. "It was here."

Remus leant in to kiss him. Draco kissed him back. He wanted to roll him in their bed in delight, lick his body from throat to feet, push into his body to find the heat you could never see on the outside, but instead he kissed him softly, like a welcome, and let him take it wherever he would.

"I'm tired," Draco said, pulling away. Remus watched him bunch the robe more closely about him and stand with an incongruous kind of grace. As Draco walked silently to the door he told himself not to expect any more and that there was plenty of time to talk about what came next.

"It might be safer if you sleep here," he heard himself say when Draco put his hand to the door. It suddenly seemed a terribly manipulative thing to say, although it might be true too, and he added, "I can sleep out here if you'd rather."

Draco leaned back against the door. "Do you like Paris, Remus?"

"Not particularly," Remus said, walking to the open bedroom door. At the reassuring sound of Draco following, he added, "But I've always wanted to."

* * *

Harry woke to sunlight streaming through familiar bed curtains in Gryffindor colours. He'd learnt not to roll over and look for Ron in the other bed but he still remembered every morning that there was no point doing it. The sound of feet hitting the floor thus caught him by surprise, and he was already sitting up when Severus appeared in the opening.

"Um. . . you're here?"

"You're astute in the mornings, Mr Potter."

"Is everything all right? What happened?"

"Sit," Severus said, and when Harry had pushed himself back against the pillows he came around the edge of the bed inside the curtains with a small tray.

"Drink this," he said handing Harry a cup and sinking, much to Harry's surprise, onto the side of the bed. He place the tray on the side-table and pointed to the second cup. "And in ten minutes," he said, "drink that."

"If you tell me what happened."

"You're hardly in any position to bargain." Harry rolled his eyes and Severus added, "and sarcastic comments about my bedside manner will only mean I pay less attention to what the next batch tastes like."

Harry suppressed the desire to pull a face, although the smell of the potion didn't help.

"Sangermano and Everson have been arrested on a range of charges, including several related to the misuse of Imperius."

"The pins," Harry said. "Everson was the unconscious one?"

"Quite, but don't interrupt. I have less than nine minutes before you drink that and go back to sleep."

Harry waved for him to continue and relaxed into the pillows, noticing the very small gap between Snape's thigh and his own with a nervous excitement he knew was really inappropriate.

"You will have to give evidence against them" – Harry did pull a face at that – "as will Draco." Harry looked abruptly at Severus's expression, because something was odd in the way he'd said Draco's name and Severus was never revealing in quite that way.

"Draco was found here at Hogwarts," Severus said, holding his look. "Safe. Although there is some confusion about his part."

He didn't ask, but Harry gathered. . . "I went to talk to him, Sangermano was attacking him, or something. I tried to save him, Death Eaters came, Draco saved me." Severus blinked, which Harry was almost certain was an expression of relief, and he added, "A lot of it's confused, but I think that's what happened."

"Everyone, including the Minister, has decided to agree that the trial was being used by Voldemort to capture outstanding students. It's unlikely anything will be proven against the Revival itself but the Ministry's involvement in the Rite is under review."

"Who could they blame if not the Revival?" Harry asked.

"Not many could manage that complicated combination of curse and charm – the pins on examination have revealed quite a lot about their maker, but the evidence is also contradictory." After a pause, Severus added, "at least I personally doubt it."

Harry went to ask who the evidence pointed to when the silence around him finally registered and pulling himself further up in the bed he said, "Where is everyone?"

"The seventh-year students who went home after the tournament have been allowed to stay there for an extra day, but the rest of the school has returned to the timetable." Harry glanced at the windows again. "Which means I have a class to get to, yes, but your body has struggled with the effects of the battle between the Chalbys and the form of Imperius placed on you. You need another day's rest, and while your dormitory is empty this is more discreet."

"Why do we need discretion?"

"It's best that the Chalybs remain a secret for now."

Something about that jarred with a vague memory for Harry but his headache was coming on quickly. Severus was already urging him to drink the second cup.

"I'll be back later," he said as Harry drank, "and Madame Pomfrey will be in between times to see how the potion is working. I expect you to be quite yourself tonight."

"Why not keep me in the dungeons?" Harry said, and then blushed at how that sounded.

"Of course," Severus said, getting to his feet, "because the school always places invalid children in the bedrooms of staff members."

Harry went to say something, he wasn't sure what, but Severus was smiling at him. He lay back down and watched him leave in a pleasant sleepy sort of blur.

* * *

As Severus let himself back into the Gryffindor senior dormitory he had to laugh at his own urge to sneak. He had a password, a right, was years past where that rivalry should have ended, but it still felt like prohibited enemy territory.

He closed the door to Harry's room behind him. It was neat, mostly unornamented except for a a photograph and a few small trinkets on the bedside chest. He'd looked at them all while the boy was sleeping – all smooth pale young skin and even untroubled breathing. His glasses were there too; Harry looked so different without them, so much less like the irritating Potter boy Severus had taught for six years. Perhaps he should investigate a charm to make them unnecessary, but he supposed Harry could do that himself if he didn't want them.

Nothing in the Hogwarts curriculum would help much to tap or guide what the boy was capable of, the almost spontaneous improvisation that had been so evident in the final competition yesterday. Severus had noted the eager eyes of more than one pretender to the right hand of Voldemort, Fudge, Dumbledore or Malfoy. Those intuitive skills were as risky as they were useful and so different to Severus's own talents. It was a little daunting to imagine what Harry might be with Draco's training and carefully crafted attitude.

The boy probably should be awake now if the effects had really passed. Severus felt a flash of concern, quickly followed by anger at everyone involved: at Lucius for not sharing the plan; at Everson, Zabini and Entwhile, probably Entwhile, for thinking to conduct it right under his nose; at Lupin for his irrational response that Severus understood better than he wanted to.

As he pulled back the curtains, Harry rolled towards him and opened his eyes.

"Hi."

"You're awake."

"Observant."

"Don't test me, Mr Potter."

Harry slid up onto one elbow, the covers slipping down off his shoulder and chest. In the evening light, amid rumpled sheets, with his messy hair and open face, Severus acknowledged he was beautiful in a clean almost accidental way – it would be easy to forget he was Harry Potter. The risk itself was rather appealling, especially as it rubbed up against the very different appeal of a young man's inexperience. Severus let himself become all too quickly erect watching what was almost certainly Harry's first conscious attempt at seduction.

"Shouldn't you be dressed," he said, not as harshly as he should. "I may have been Madame Pomfrey."

"I'm delirious with something-or-other," Harry replied, with an almost confident smile.

"Really."

Harry pulled the covers further away across his stomach, his hips. Severus's prick swelled in appreciation, but he was hardly likely to be drawn into anything so inadvisable, in the Gryffindor dormitory of all places, with six years of irritating bravado tossing in their beds downstairs. The boy had gone no further, a tangle of dark curled hair, the fleshy base of his prick just visible. . .

"Severus?" Harry said, quietly.

"Yes, do it."

He foolishly watched the boy jerk the covers away, his prick jumping out towards Severus, who somehow found himself sinking to the bed, one hand on the mattress between Harry's pale naked thighs. He carefully didn't touch the boy, who pushed up anyway and opened his mouth in a flood of evident arousal.

"Touch yourself."

Harry's eyes flew open, a startled green. "What?"

"You're trying to seduce me into your bed, aren't you? Do it, Harry."

Harry closed his eyes and touched his hand to his prick, breathing out hard as if he'd never done it before and very tentatively tracing his fingers along the smooth taut skin.

Severus closed his hand around the back of Harry's, folding the boy's hand around his own prick gently but firmly. Harry was watching him then, eyes wide and mouth slightly open as Severus guided his stroke.

"Oh."

Severus tightened and sped the next stroke, leaning forward over the boy, who thrust his face up to be kissed.

All through the long slow biting kiss, the urgent lips and teeth, Severus guided a firm even stroke, the boy's hips canting up against his lowering fist and Severus's own prick pulsing hotly, pressed tightly into the fold of his robe.

Harry pulled his mouth away to breathe and panted, his hips starting to miss the rhythm of their combined stroke, "You too?"

Without answering, Severus drew back and, feeling the boy shiver and jerk under him, bent to touch the flat of his tongue to the head of Harry's prick. The hips thrust hard and Harry gasped a strained keening noise out as Severus pushed his mouth down with a downward stroke of their hands, which ran back up with a tighter grip, sticky and wet from Severus's mouth and Harry groaned and came in silent bursts of warm bitterness.

Severus drew away, letting himself smile at the sprawl of shocked boy, his attention caught by the flecks of semen on his robe and hand. For a moment he stared at them, shining in what was left of the light through the window and the curtains.

He drew his wand and cleaned them both carefully, and when he finally met Harry's eyes they were less frustrated or upset than intently observant. Severus leant down to him again, pushing a hand along Harry's neck and into the wild tangle of hair and kissed him firmly, tracing the boy's lips with his tongue as he pulled the covers back over him. "I'm glad you're well," he said, a little surprised at how very sincerely he meant it.

Harry touched his hand as it drew away. "Don't go."

"I can't stay here, Harry."

"Stay long enough."

And Severus hesitated.

The End.