Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter characters and the whole world created around it; all belong to J.K. Rowling, who we all worship and serve. I just love to manipulate them to serve my own selfish needs.
But I do own Alex Ladon, Finbar Ganad, Darragh Ganad (and their mom), The Zabini Family (bar Blaise of course), and some minor characters (Orion, North, Gloves, Rufus…). DO NOT USE THESE UNLESS YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION!

The plot comes from the voices inside my head. You have been warned.

Chapter Nineteen - Bitter Sweet Symphony

"Prove it." - Harry Potter

Draco slumped back is seat at Everlind's, staring in disbelief at his three companions. He'd just delivered the most incredible monologue about the joys and terrors of celebrating New Year's Eve with his family, more specifically when his crazy Aunt Bella came visiting. He had a ton of material to draw on when it came to Aunt Bellatrix. If you managed to get over wanting to shit your pants when meeting her, you'd come to know that she was as loopy as a roller-coaster. Not only did she believe she possessed magical super-powers, but she talked about politics in a way it made Adolf Hitler's reign seem like putty.

Nevertheless, it seemed he could have been expounding about life's greatest mysteries for all his audience seemed to care.

"Are you three even listening?" He demanded knowing he sounded like a spoiled brat. He couldn't help it. Things inside of him were helter-skelter and he needed them to ground him. Wanting nothing more than to just be around them, wrestle with Alex' at times major-bitch mode, Blaise's endless riddled hints and innuendoes and Theo's dry and emotionless truths. Even though those attitudes annoyed him royally at times, right now he needed them to reassure him that the world was not flat and that Hell had yet to freeze over.

Blaise quirked an eyebrow at him, a rather disconcerting smirk sitting on his lips. "Hanging on to every word," he said smoothly.

When he turned to Alex, she was doing the same thing she'd been doing ever since he'd arrived; staring at him. Not any ordinary stare either. No, it was the patented 'I'm so on to you'-stare. So not something he wanted to deal with.

He was almost afraid to look at Nott. But he did, because honestly, what was the worst Theodore could do but creep him out?

He was not disappointed. Nott was very much his usual apathetic, weedy-looking self. And when he spoke, it was in his monotonous drone, "I'm sorry. I wasn't listening."

"Nice," Draco said, flinging his hand in the air dramatically, "why ever not? What is it that prevents you from fully appreciating the witty wonder that is me? I honestly though that the story of Aunt Bella and the lobster tank was quite possibly the height of my career."

"Oh, but it is!" Nott said earnestly. At least, Draco though he was earnest. It was so hard to tell with Nott.

"And what could be ever so fascinating that you don't feel like giving me a standing ovation?"

"I am just wondering something," Theodore said, eyes wide yet almost as lively as those of a dead fish.

Waiting for it, but deciding it was not going to come without him dragging it out of Nott, he prompted, "Which is?"

"It might be a bit personal, really," he glanced away and back, a shifty look of there ever was one. "Just sort of curious what you're going to do about your lusting after Harry Potter. It's kind of starting to get old and I'm sort of wishing you'd just let him have at you so we can-"

He didn't get any further because Draco had made a strange little noise that seemed to get stuck in the back of his throat like a possibly fatal shard of chicken bone.

While he was busy having a fit, Alex had the presence of mind to shush Nott. "Theo! Subtlety ring a bell? Look at what you did to him! Draco, are you-"


Blaise kicked him, hard.

In a purely instinctive reaction he curled in on himself, hands flying to his shin gingerly. Through the red haze he praised Blaise's timely interference.

Nevertheless his shout had called attention onto them and Alex said loudly (in a terrible fake tone) into the silence that had descended on Everlind's, "After me. Psh, Theo, why would Draco lust after me in a sexual way? Then again, he does. Like me. In a sexual way. But most often in a way that speaks of proper respect and desire that is normal in a relationship between a man and a woman. But we have sex too. Sure. There is lusting. Naturally. At it like bunnies, the two of us... someone please stop me."

Blaise handed her his espresso which she downed in one gulp.

When the completely bewildered clientele of Everlind's had turned away from the four of them, Draco rested his forehead on the table and croaked, "Thank you. That was nearly disastrous. Can we go now, please?"

Alex mumbled feebly from behind her hands, "What part of that was not disastrous?"

Blindly taking out a note that was worth double of what they owed, Draco slapped it on the table and strode out of Everlind's feeling faint from the pit of his stomach. He took care not to glance to his right when he left the pub.

His friends let him walk on in peace, until he managed to calm down. Only when he could relax his hands out from tightly curled fists did he slow down. Theo was on his left, Alex and Blaise on his right.

In a very tight voice he asked, "Did you tell him?"

"No," answered Alex simply.

"Then how-"

Theo interrupted him, "I knew ever since you got Potter to nearly put his fist through your head. You're never physically aggressive and the way the two of you fought..."

"But I don't even like Potter, let alone want... him..." he hitched on 'want' and trailed of miserably. He was happy when none of them called him a liar.

Could his day get anymore fucked up?

"I think it is needless to say that you're never to breathe even a word of this to anyone?" Draco asked in a quiet and small voice.

"Of course," said Theo.

By now they had entered the park. There was a bitter chill and they huddled together. Their breaths made steamy puffs in front of them. It was the kind of crisp chill that painted silver crystals on the edges of the dead leaves underfoot. They crunched in protest with every step they took.

"Draco," Alex said softly, and her hand slid into his.

It was enough to make him hunch his shoulders in dread.

"Don't you think it's about time-"

"No," he said harshly.

"Hush, hear me out," Alex said sternly, but in a kind way. "I think that if you're completely honest with yourself, you don't want to hide it anymore. And you know why?"

"Enlighten me," he snarled.

His tone did not deter Alex, and she said what he'd known she would, "If you really did not want anybody to know, you would not have dressed Harry in your obviously bloody expensive trousers and you would not have given him the red turtleneck I gave you last year. I think"-she ignored Draco's attempt at denial-"you've grown tired of pretending. I think that you really like Harry. I think you sort of tried to mark him by dressing him so obviously in your clothes. I think you're hoping to be found out."

"Why would I want to be found out? Why would I even want to go there again? One battle with my father was quite enough. It only served to land me in new school with a serious dent in my self-image," he said with an air of obviously faked nonchalance.

"So your dad is a narrow-minded prick," Alex tossed out casually, "that's awful. But is it really enough to hide behind me or some other pretend-girlfriend for the rest of your life?"


"Or are you still not sure you are alright with being homosexual? Some part of you that still thinks you'll go to hell if you fuck another bloke?" Alex was getting crass and it meant she was getting worked up. "If you still think that, I'd suggest getting a castration because there is nothing that will change the way you feel-"

"It's not that!" Draco said loudly.

"Then what is it? Besides Lucius, what is worth hiding yourself from?" Alex implored emphatically. They'd stopped in the middle of a thankfully deserted path. Blaise and Theo were both watching him, apparently and unfairly feeling less awkward about this conversation than him.

"I," he said shrilly, but it was the only word he found, "I don't...I don't know."

And he didn't. Know anything. About what he wanted, and why wanting scared him so much. About being and why that made him uneasy. About feeling and what it implied.

Alex wound her fingers through his and said with a small smile, "Don't you think that's a silly reason?"

When he opened his mouth to answer she shushed him, "No need to answer that. Just think about it. You're seventeen. It's about time you stopped being such a scared little shit."

And with that, they walked on pointedly talking about a completely unrelated topic.

Draco trailed behind pondering Alex's words.


An hour or so after Malfoy's rather dramatic exit, Harry was working on his second mug of cocoa. Alex' declaration that she and Malfoy fucked like bunnies had, needless to say, considerably soured Harry's mood. And that was putting it lightly. He wasn't even pretending to listen to his friends anymore. He just wasn't. He wasn't anything. Not even angry, really. Just numb and inexplicably tired.

It just so happens that there are days when one horrid thing happens after another. Luckily, Harry seemed to have gotten his portion for today. Not so lucky when the next round was dished out to Darragh.

One moment they'd all been sitting and chatting (everyone other than Harry; he was too busy feeling nothing) and the next Darragh gave a strange lurch next to him, and was out of his seat and the pub by the next. On his other side Finbar cussed an ugly word, a feat completely out of character for him, and stared intently through the window.

The whole table followed his line of sight.

Outside, in the gray December light, stood Darragh and Orion. Darragh had his hands in his pockets in a forced manner, as if he wanted to either appear casual or restrain himself from touching the other. Orion just stood looking miserable and sick.

That was all they had time to take in before Finbar uttered a forceful 'fuck' and rushed through the door. In that very same instant Darragh had leapt for Orion, his fist connecting twice with Orion's face before they hit the ground. Harry was after Finbar before he had time to progress the meaning. He heard footsteps of the others thundering behind him.

As they sprinted forward Harry saw how Darragh, sitting on Orion's abdomen, punched him over and over with a frightening methodical rage. Finbar tried to pull him away, but being his brother, he could not bring himself to hurt his sibling, who shook him of with one harsh shove.

Harry was more than close enough to hear the disgusting sound of a face being hit by a powerful force and to see Orion trying to shield himself, but making no attempt to retaliate. Next thing he knew, he'd pushed past Finbar and grabbed Darragh around the torso. The latter grunted and got Harry with his elbow right between his ribs.

This is what they called going berserk.

Gritting his teeth Harry got hold of the arm that had been hitting Orion and twisted it mercilessly behind his back. It must've hurt like hell because Harry knew he was forcing it almost to breaking point, but still Darragh fought and bucked and raged.

Dean and Ron grabbed Orion and dragged him away.

Harry was vaguely surprised the blond was still conscious. The larger part of his conscious was acting on pure instinct and he slung an arm around Darragh's chest to keep him from twisting away.

Spitting out blood and a shard of teeth, Orion got to his feet, shrugging off Dean's helping hands. In that very same instant, Darragh went limp in Harry's grasp. Yet he held on, just to make sure, and Harry heard himself and Darragh panting like they'd run a marathon.

The silence was terrible.

Everybody pretended not to see Orion's tears through the blood on his face. Nobody looked at Darragh's hunched form.

Harry hung on.

"It's okay," Darragh whispered hoarsely, "you can let go now."


"Yeah, sure."

Harry let him go.

Remaining on his knees, he watched Darragh stand up and turn towards Orion. His breathing was still erratic, but the rest of him had gone motionless. He looked at Orion for a long, long time, the moment stretching all until Harry was sure they'd still be there in the morrow if nobody said anything soon. Then, in a calm, almost polite voice Darragh said, "I'd rather not ever see you again."

Orion spat out some more blood, "Darragh-"

"Shut. Up."

"Do you think I want to get married to some-"

"I said: Shut. Up!"

"I love y-"

"SHUT UP!" Darragh thundered.

Everybody who had previously been shuffling about uneasily was shocked into a statue-like stillness.

Darragh took a deep shuddering breath and said in a painfully controlled voice, "Goodbye," to Orion and then, voice quaking, to Finbar, "I'd like to go home now, please."

Finbar took him away.

The rest stared after them. Dean, who was the bravest when it came down to emotional conflicts tried to put a hand on Orion's shoulder once more. Upon contact the blond twisted away, threw them a tormented look and resolutely strode towards his motorcycle, rubbing blood and tears on his sleeve in the progress.

Harry's knees popped when Seamus hoisted him up.

"Fucking hell," Ron surmised astutely for all of them.


Harry left Everlind's early. Early being in the late afternoon. About five hours since he'd been sleeping in a bed with Draco. About two hours since Darragh had lost his mind along with heart. There was nothing he could do about Malfoy. He'd texted him a few minutes ago, asking whether the blond wanted to meet up early Monday morning, but he had yet to receive a reply. The situation with the prat was quite beyond his grasp and possibly even beyond his maturity level, meaning way too involved and complicated and just plain migraine-inducing. He could try and wrack his brain over it for the rest of the day and just probably end up feeling sorry for himself since there just was no clear answer.

So instead of wasting his time, well pining, he decided to put the last hours of this utterly pear-shaped day to some good.

After informing Sirius where he was going and that he was going to be late, he took the bus as far as it would go and then walked for nearly half an hour. The further away he went from the heart of the community, the brighter the stars shone and the more visible they became. The only light besides that of the moon was that of a house in the distance, half hiding behind the hedge and bare silhouettes of apple trees. By the time he pressed the doorbell, he was well and truly freezing his arse off. A Christmas wreath was mounted in the middle of the door, decorated with red and gold ribbons, true holiday colors.

The door opened, blasting a delicious waft of warm air into Harry's face, defrosting his nose marginally. Finbar, wearing an apron that said 'Kiss the Cook', blinked at him in a teddy bear like way. The fact that he was holding a murderously huge kitchen knife sort of ruined the image.

"Harry," he said, lowering the knife self-consciously, "come in."

"Hullo," Harry said lowly. With a raised eyebrow at the knife he said, "Expecting a certain someone?" He didn't add 'Orion' since that would be like pointing out the earth orbited the sun.

When Finbar just grimaced tightly, Harry decided it was probably not a good idea to enquire any further. He busied himself with peeling off his multiude of layers and trailed after Finbar. Meanwhile all the dogs had been roused and were jumping around Harry in ecstasy, licking at his hands and face if he dared to pat them on the head. He nearly crashed into the huge and genuine Christmas tree when three of the dogs leaped at him simultaneously and he had to grab at Finbar to keep himself on both feet. The dogs calmed considerably when Finbar said a clear and commanding 'down boys' as they entered the kitchen. Harry found out just why Finbar was wearing an apron.

He was baking muffins.

The sight of tall, broad-shouldered, and handsome Finbar baking muffins sort of stumped Harry.

"What?" Finbar asked maneuvering a steaming plate of muffins out of the oven.

Harry gestured uselessly around, "You. Baking muffins. It's just... you're like the Coca Cola Light man, you know?"

"The what?"

After coughing into his hand to hide a small blush, Harry clarified, "You know, that good-looking guy that walks into an office full of women carrying a crate of Diet Coke? And there's that song 'I Just Wanna Make Love To You' playing. It's a commercial..." He shut himself up.

Finbar let out a deep chuckle, "Why Harry, I had no idea you felt that way."

"Oh, get lost," Harry mumbled, "you know what I mean."

Raising an amused eyebrow Finbar, wearing oven mittens, carefully put the muffins on a big plate. When Harry mumbled 'even wearing mittens' under his breath, Finbar just smiled some more.

Nevertheless, despite the banter, Finbar seemed drawn and distracted. Harry just went ahead and asked, "How's he doing?"

Pulling the mittens off, Finbar leaned on the counter, exhausted. "Frankly? I'm not sure. I hate that I'm not sure since he's my brother and I want to make this right."

Harry fidgeted uncomfortably.

"I guess I'm too close to him to make something like this right," Finbar added thoughtfully, but in a way that suggested he blamed himself entirely for this shortcoming.

After a short pause in which both of them collected their thoughts, Harry asked, "Do you think he'd mind if I check up on him? Or is it too soon?"

The expression on Finbar's face clearly spoke of how relieved he was with Harry's offer, that he'd been hoping for it but had not wanted to burden him by asking himself. "No, I think he wouldn't mind at all," he said with a smile.

Harry allowed Finbar to push him a plate of muffins in his hands, before setting off. Finbar, very briefly, gripped his shoulder in gratitude.

Balancing the plate with care, Harry went up the wooden stairs, feeling trepidation pooling behind his navel. He had no idea how Darragh would react, let alone what state he was in. He remembered where Darragh's room was, having had a glance at it before, but never for a long visit. Taking a steadying breath, resolving to not fumble awkwardly with his words, Harry knocked lightly. When he didn't get an answer, he cracked open the door and peeked in.

"Don't want to talk about it, Finbar... do want those muffins though."

Harry had to smile at that. He stepped fully into the room. To his utter relief, Darragh was neither crying or having hysterics or destroying his room. Instead he was laying face-down on his bed, sprawling, half-dressed. Not half-dressed as in only wearing trousers, but, even though all proper articles of clothing were present on his body, they just were ...half-on. As if he'd just decided doing it properly required too much energy. The only thing that was more or less properly on were his trousers though his belt was only threaded through half of the loops on his jeans. His t-shirt, on the other hand, was literally half-on. As in he'd only put his head and one arm through the respective holes, the rest was still rucked up in a bunch of fabric above the bare shoulder.

"No on the Finbar part, yes to the muffin part," Harry said, making his voice sound as normal as possible.

Darragh gave a startled jerk, rolling over with such force he nearly went over the edge of his bed. He sat up and stared at Harry. There were no red rims around his eyes to hint at him having cried. He was only a bit pale and his hair was wet as if he'd come out of the shower recently.

"Er, hi?" Harry offered, holding out the plate with muffins.

Looking at the plate with a bemused expression on his face, Darragh reached for it. He immediately put it on his cabinet. "Harry," he said, still sounding somewhat surprised.

"Hi," Harry repeated himself, "Am I interrupting?"

That seemed to jerk him out of his strange state, "Oh, no," he smiled ruefully, "not unless you count wrestling with feeling sorry for myself and feeling guilty a valid way to spend my Saturday afternoon."

"Guilty?" Harry closed the door behind him softly and debated whether to sit in the vacated chair at the desk or with Darragh on the bed.

Darragh looked away, sucking in his lower lip for a moment, "Well, I rather did sort of attacked him. I mean, there was blood in my hair. God."

That explained the shower, then.

"And now, when I sort of realize what he was actually saying, I feel as though I've no right to react that way. I mean..." His eyes flicked to Harry and then veered away.

Belatedly, Harry decided to sit on the bed. "You don't..."

"No, no," Darragh swung his legs over the edge, so he was sitting properly next to Harry, "If you don't mind, I'd want to-"


"Okay," he said on a breath, "He's…"

He stopped abruptly and the look on his face suggested as though he had a something sharp imbedded in his heart that was slowly being wrenched around. "He's, he's... He's getting married." Darragh said, sounding terribly confused.

"What?" Harry asked, dumbfounded. Somewhere, in the back of his mind a bell rang but the whole situation had been so disturbing and private that Harry might've missed some crucial hints.

Darragh nodded, almost frantically, blinking rapidly. "Yeah. His family, they're terribly rich and...they've given him an ultimatum; marry or get the fuck out of our lives. And there's this girl and he's twenty-two, so, yeah."

It was difficult to get his mind around.

"And I was so, so angry. Shit. I just wanted to hurt him as much I was. But now, when I'm thinking about. What if my mum and Finbar asked it of me? Would I choose for him? And goddammit, I-" Darragh rubbed at his face tiredly, "There was no way in hell I could've handled that more badly. My reaction was so full of flaws I might have just gone ahead and shot his brains out. Fuck, fuck, fuck..."

Following that logic Harry could most definitively see why he was drowning in guilt. He could come up with only one lame consolation, "You're not perfect you know. It's not your fault."

Darragh managed a quavering smile, "I'm not? Way to go and burst that bubble, mate."

They both huffed a soft laugh.

Darragh put his face in his hand again and asked miserably, "But why didn't he choose me?"

No answer came to Harry.

"I love him," Darragh added in a choked whisper.

Ignoring the half-on shirt, Harry put an arm around him awkwardly. Darragh felt cold to touch.

"I wish I cold bawl my eyes out," Darragh mumbled.

Harry, even though he profoundly wished Darragh wouldn't, assured him valiantly, "You can cry if you want."

On a heavy sigh, Darragh turned to look at him, "I can't, literarily. I've never been able to. Even when I was a baby I couldn't, not even when I was born. Mum though I'd be screwed in the head when I grew up, but I turned out being fairly normal."

Making his voice light and teasing Harry said, "Fairly normal?"

"Oh hush," Darragh said with a mere shadow of his usual grin. He gently pulled out of Harry's half-embrace, and proceeded with putting his shirt on properly and buckling his belt. He flopped down on the bed again, curled loosely on his side.

Unsure whether he was doing the right thing, Harry laid down next to him. They looked at each other. Harry decided that, even though he seemed to be fairly calm, Darragh was still in the process of breaking into tiny pieces on the inside.

"I can't help but wonder whether he'd chosen me if I'd reacted more appropriately," Darragh whispered wretchedly.

Wondering about that, Harry found that Darragh's violent reaction might have been the thing Harry'd have done had he been in that situation. Not by any means a good reaction, but a human one.

Darragh was still following his trail of thoughts, "I don't think he would've. I probably sort of fucked it up, too."

"How come?"

When the golden eyes cut sharply away, Harry knew the answer was going to make them uncomfortable, "You," he just said.

"Oh," Harry said faintly, "Did he, er, know?"


Harry felt himself blush, "That you kissed me?"

There was a long silence, "No. He didn't." They lay breathing in tandem for a while, "Orion and I had agreed to sort ourselves out by the time I got back from that school trip. We were struggling; he's just such a bastard. He's fucking mean. There's no other way to put it. And I knew his parents were pressuring him in a way. He knew that there was someone, I, eh, liked. That kiss, Harry, was saying goodbye to you. I made my decision. I told him. I don't know whether I was too late, or just plain way too late."

It took Harry a while to get over himself so he could answer such an admission; more than ten minutes at least. Darragh didn't seem to mind much, he'd closed his eyes after a while of silence. Eventually Harry said hoarsely, "I'd say something like more fish in the sea and rot like that, but I don't think you want to hear that."

"No, not really," Darragh mumbled, eyes still closed, "Even though he was vicious prat, he never hurt me. Much. Unless we rowed, then he went ugly. He needed barely three words to take the wind out of your sails...


The way Darragh said that last word, like letting go of huge weight for the time being, suggested that that was the last he wanted to say about the matter. While he let him rest, Harry mulled over what he'd just been told. In a strange way Harry felt comforted that a relationship was fucked up by both individuals in it. There was no black and white. On television or in stories, you often went 'that utter bastard', which was easy. The bad character cheated, abandoned or hurt the good character. In truth, real love took two people to turn it sour. Which didn't mean he wasn't more sympathetic to Darragh's case; he was rather convinced he'd only had a look at the tip of the iceberg.

Tuning his head to look at him, Harry said sincerely, "If there is anything I can do to make you feel better..."

The smirk that graced Darragh's lips was a sight to see. He opened his eyes, "You have no idea how dangerous it is to say that." He said in a low voice.

"What do you mean?" Harry asked, his throat clenching.

Putting his head on Harry's chest, Darragh said in a strange voice, "I could totally appeal to your good nature and go all: 'Harry, please, make me forget, make me feel something else than this pain. Please, oh God, please, just make it stop'."

To say he went cold to the bone was an understatement. Just as to say he felt as though he was burning up.

Darragh added almost casually, "I'm not going to, you prat."

"Oh," Harry managed faintly.

"Unless you feel up to it if course. Maybe a shag will put the world right again. Some good randy monkey sex."

Harry grinned at the tone in his friend's voice and knew that, for now, Darragh was okay. If he could joke about sex again, he was going to pull through.

"Maniac," Harry said, and maneuvered an arm around the brunette.

Slinging a hand across Harry's stomach, Darragh muttered, "Nothing wrong with that. Your loss though."

Out loud, Harry joked, "You just want me because I'm pretty."

Inwardly he though uneasily, 'my loss'.


When Harry left, Darragh sat on his bed for a long time. Just sitting, legs crossed.

He'd fucked up. Royally. He hadn't been there to support Orion when he needed him the most. Some part of him, the rational part, pointed out that if his mother or Finbar would ever ask such a thing of him -his family or his lover- he'd choose his family, too. Just like Orion had. Books and movies and stories always had a heart-wrenching and sublime ending where true love prevailed and the lovers chose each other. But really? Darragh couldn't imagine not choosing his family. Think about it. Your family or your lover. It's not easy. Then again Darragh basked in the knowledge that even though Finbar might not like his boyfriend, whoever it was, and while he'd voice that opinion loudly, he'd never force Darragh to choose. But if he would have, even though Darragh would never forgive him for it, he'd choose for his family. Finbar was his brother. He loved him. Nobody would understand him better than him. What they shared probably went beyond the usual sibling bond. And his strong, beautiful, selfless mother. The woman who'd fought for them all her life all by herself. He couldn't bear to lose them.

It was a no-win situation. To choose his family would mean breaking something so deeply fundamental between them and to loose his lover. To pick his lover would mean losing his family and a part of himself that could never heal.

Orion had a younger sister he absolutely adored. Much like Darragh adored Finbar. Therefore he understood Orion's decision and the terrible finality of it.

But that didn't mean it hurt less.

Thinking about made it worse. He'd done something terrible. He was hurt, but it probably didn't compare to how Orion felt now.

Darragh slid of the bed and went over to his closet. He grabbed the thickest sweater he could find, donned two scarves and leg-warmers. Then he padded downstairs.

His brother, still cooking God knows what, looked at him when he went into the kitchen.


"Hey," Darragh returned. "I'm going out for a while."


"To Blaise's."

Darragh turned around and went into the hall to put on his old and scruffy converse shoes. Trailing behind, holding a spatula, Finbar watched him put on his shoes, his coat, his knit cap and finally his gloves. When he grabbed the keys to his bike, Darragh said, "Don't worry. It's just something I have to do."

Looking torn, Finbar answered, "Alright. But his friends will probably be there. I saw them leave together earlier today."

"I know," Darragh murmured, "At least I hope they are there. I'll be back late, but don't worry."

Leaving his brother looking supremely worried was difficult. Yet the idea that there was one thing today he could do to balance out his awful mistake karma-wise, was what was on his mind. He couldn't fix the situation with Orion. He couldn't fix things with Harry. But there was a slight, tiny, minor and small possibility he could do something else. He would take his chances and try it.

Riding his bike through the forest at that hour and in the current season equaled to just one thought alone: focusing on the icy roads. Thankfully he knew the way well and it took him barely half an hour before he reached the Zabini estate. While he waited, he took in the portrait the house, still falling snow, and muted lights made. His heart firm, Darragh pressed the bell.

His aunt opened the door, a welcoming smile already in place. "Darragh? Come in, come in."

Teeth clattering, Darragh frowned at his Aunt, "You don't sound surprised to see me."

Brinn laughed and helped him out of his coat, snow flaking off with every movement, "No, Finbar called while you were on your way. He wanted to make sure you arrived safely."

Taking a calming breath, Darragh slid out his cellphone in a blink of an eye, took another breath while typing the digits, failed and hollered into his mobile when Finbar picked up, "Thanks a lot, doofus!" and hung up.

"Sorry," Darragh said testily, "I just really wished he'd keep his gob shut about me trying to put my fist through the back of Orion's head, not everybody needs to know. And what did he think I'd do? Ride into the lake?" with a rough gesture he pulled of his knit cap, "It's like having two moms."

His aunt took the cap from him and said sardonically, "Be that as it may, he actually didn't say anything at all about that. He was just a bit concerned with the heavy snowfall. And to be honest, the only other thing he'd said was that he was" she made quotation marks with her hands, "'going to kill the guy' if he didn't drop my sister back off before 12 o'clock."

Darragh faltered. He had completely forgotten about his mother having a date. Dear Lord. The first date in years. So besides worrying himself sick over his brother, Finbar was also frantic about their mother being out with some guy. On a date. Mum was dating. With a guy that wasn't his father. Actually, thank God it was not his father, because that would mean he was on the loose again. But still. Mum. Another bloke. Romantically. Ugh.

He was still staring of in space when Brinn said, "You had a fight with Orion?"

Shaking himself Darragh said, "Eh. Fight. Yes. In a way. Is Blaise home?"

Giving him a look that clearly told him that the change of subjects did not mean he was of the hook in the long run, she answered, "Yeah, he's in the recreation room with his friends."

"Thanks," he muttered and was off.

He gave a warning knock before he entered. The recreation room was actually the music room, but since it was mostly used by the children in the Zabini household, more music-less related items had accumulated there over the years. One side was still an impressive array of instruments and sound equipment, the other was currently occupied by a big couch and a small table to the side. Theodore was fiddling with a guitar, turning knobs on the panels with utmost concentration. Blaise and Alex were on the couch, watching a movie on the big tv-set, Alex obviously nodding off. And at the table was Draco, bent over what was probably an assignment due for Monday.

At his entrance, the harmony was disrupted. Theo accidentally turned a knob the wrong way, causing an enormous 'thump' to rattle the glass of lemonade on Draco's table. Blaise put the movie on pause, sitting up straight. Alex jerked awake. Draco just glared at him.

"Darragh," Blaise said, his voice betraying his knowledge of what had happened this afternoon.

"My, the gossip-vine stretches far here in Hogsmeade," Darragh said ruefully. Despite Draco's filthy glare, he pointedly took the chair opposite of him.

Blaise just gave a philosophical one-shouldered shrug, "Small town. But the gossip aside, how are you?"

It was a very precise methodological manner in which Darragh fished for the best response for his cousin. He needed very few to build up to what he really came to do here. "Besides the fact that my boyfriend is getting married and I consequentially tried to put my fist in his brains, okay. I had Harry giving me some support this afternoon."

From the corner of his eyes, he saw Draco flinch, the carefully written words disrupted with a sharp draw of his pen. He stared at it for an instant, put his pen down and took up his glass.

"Support, how so?" Theo asked from behind him.

Bingo, Darragh though.

"Some good steamy sex," he said, making himself sound smug. There was a gurgling noise and Darragh realized his miscalculation when Draco spat his mouthful of lemonade all over him.

He'd wanted a reaction. But not quite such a wet one.

Hacking and coughing, Draco gasped for air. The other three were staring at him in various states from shock to suspicion. Wiping his face on his sleeve, Darragh said, not as smoothly as he'd had it planned in his head, but smooth nevertheless, "Whatever is wrong Draco? You look a bit peaky."

Peaky being an understatement, Draco's fair complexion had turned ashen. He couldn't form a reply.

"You're not surprised are you? You knew I liked Harry." It felt good to be vicious to someone who deserved it.

The blonde head was bowed, the bangs hiding his face. His hands were shaking.

"I told you he wouldn't wait forever," he said cheerily.

He stood up, ignored the look of outrage on Alex's face and Blaise's arched brows. Walking back to the door felt strange, surreal, but he kept true to his narrative. With the knob in his hand, he said with his back to the room, "Are you feeling positively awful, Draco? Are you?"

The question was met by silence.

"Think about that for a moment. Think how that makes you feel. And do something about it," he turned, looked at the stricken expressions and Draco's shattered one and spoke in a voice completely at odds with the one he'd just used, "Just kidding."

Only Blaise had an 'I knew it' face. The rest looked rather confused. At last Draco managed to speak, albeit not very eloquently, "K-kidding?"

Darragh snorted, "Yeah. Kidding. You fell for it didn't you? But think, for a second, Draco, about how that made you feel."

"I don't understand."

"You don't? Well it'll come to you. Besides, it's not as though Harry's in love with me," and with that, he walked out.

On his ride back home, his mind turned the whole event over and over in his head. It had been too forced, too staged, too dramatic. He felt a bit foolish. As though he'd been playing in a bad movie. Hoping that both Blaise and Alex would at least recognize his intentions for what they were was all he had. Aside from crossing his fingers that his little act had driven a certain point home. If Harry ever found out, he hoped that by then he only had reason to be grateful and not angry at his actions. He sort of did say things that he suspected might not set well with the brunette. Harry was too nice. Sometimes you had to be brutal and cruel. Not much, not often and only with the best of intentions. But Harry wasn't just wired like that, he wouldn't be able to bring himself to say such things. But Darragh could.

Hope, hoping, hoped. That was the keyword here. But he'd done his best.

Now that he felt like he at least balanced out some of his karma, Darragh felt like he deserved something he hadn't done in a long time. So when he got home he took a hot shower, picked out his most comfortable pajamas and padded to his brother's room. It was not very late, but Finbar must've been emotionally drained as well, since he was tucked under two pairs of comforters.

"Finbar," he whispered and stepped into the room.

A small grunt and then Finbar sat up, blinking. His braid hung crookedly over his shoulder, "Darragh? You're home. Is mum back yet?"

"No, she's still out."

"Ah. I've put my alarm for twelve o'clock. I want to be sure she's home before I'm truly asleep."

Darragh was standing in the middle of the room, hugging himself, "You're always worrying. The big protector of the family."

"Hm," he looked at Darragh abruptly, a keen look in his eyes, "what's the matter?"

Shuffling his feet, he muttered, "I was wondering if I could-" he gestured at the bed.

"Ah. Sure," he lifted the covers.

Darragh slid in gratefully, feeling as though he were only six years again and having nightmares. "Thanks,"

"Don't be stupid," Finbar grumbled and easily curled up against him. After a few minutes of breathing in tandem, Finbar put an arm around him too, "I'm glad you're here. I'm worried sick about mum."

Darragh turned his head, nose ending up in Finbar's impossible hair, "I though you'd be. Me too."

"I'm worried sick about you, too."

"I know," Darragh said regretfully and twined his fingers with those of his brother's, "Thank you."


"Hide me!" Draco ducked behind Alex, making himself small. Taking in consideration that he was nearly two heads taller than her it sort of made the effort moot.

Alex sighed, sharing a look with Blaise, "What is it now?"

"I think I saw Potter and for the love of all that's holy don't move!" Draco demanded, his hands like iron clamps on her shoulders.

"Potter might see you. Dear Lord, that sounds awful," Blaise said, nodding gravely.

It had been like that for the whole week. After the rather climatic events of the weekend, Draco had gone mad. There was no other word for it. It was Thursday and it was the last week before the Christmas hols begun, but his friends were starting to suspect that they'd be bringing him his gifts in St. Mungo's psychiatric ward.

Peeking over Alex's shoulders, he whispered, "Is he gone?"

"Gone?" Blaise said on a snort. "He was never there in the first place. You've been hallucinating Potters for the past four days and, frankly, we're getting a bit worried. A tiny smidgen of worry, but worry nonetheless."

"I don't dream about Potter!" Draco hissed, unfolding his tall frame from behind Alex.

Blaise gave him an exasperated look, "I didn't say that."

"And I'm not hallucinating Potters either," Draco spat. He looked around wildly and muttered, "I need coffee."

"You sure that's a good plan?" Alex wanted to know, as she watched him dig frantically in his wallet, "More coffee?"

Draco threw her a look that could have curdled milk. They always had a monopoly on the third floor coffee machine, it being known as Malfoy's domain. But what with Draco's attitude over the course of week, all the students had started avoiding the coffee machine, opting to take their chances in the Great Hall. Of course, if someone snarled 'you got a death wish?!' at you every few seconds, it was only understandable.

Every time a student with hair a shade darker then brown and glasses came into view, Draco went a bit wild. And while that sort of behavior was tiring, it was nothing compared when he spotted Darragh. Which was what happened now.

The brunette had surprised everybody by showing up on Monday just as always and with an attitude that was only slightly more wild than usual. When he wasn't up to his usual mischief he went quiet in a steely sort of way. Everybody left him alone, since it was obvious that while he was doing quite well for such a rough break-up, he was close to snapping when pushed. And not snap in the weepy sort of way, either. For once Finbar was not joined at his hip, and the youngest Ganad came striding by quite alone.

Blaise whacked him up the head with a newspaper, "Don't growl at my cousin."

With a look would send any other ordinary man cowering, Draco took a sip from his coffee. The liquid had just touched his tongue when Darragh, passing them at that exact moment, shouted, "Hey Harry!"

Draco spew out his mouthful of coffee.

He was fighting against tears in his eyes and a general lack of air when Darragh informed him grouchily, "This spitting? It has got to stop."

Watching Darragh wipe coffee from his face with a look of disgust considerably brightened Draco's day. Of course, that glowing feeling was shot when a terribly familiar voice said, "What happened to you? Is that coffee on your face?"

It seemed Darragh had not been bluffing.

"He spat coffee at me," Darragh said petulantly and pointed at Draco.

With one brow arched, Potter followed the direction of the offending digit and blinked at him.

"Malfoy," he said, sounding surprised.

Draco had been trying to sidle behind Alex, but got pushed in the head for his troubled, "Don't be such a dork," she hissed.

At the lack of response, Potter said with a strange tone to his voice, "Let's go, Ron's waiting for us at the lake," he grabbed Darragh's sleeve and towed him away.

Alex, her eyes narrowed to gleaming green slits as she surveyed the hallway, which had been steadily emptying as students drifted away to get something during the morning break. When the last one disappeared down the stairs she turned on him, "That's enough. What's wrong with you?" she demanded, "You've been twitchy for days now. We know you're sprung on Harry. Do something about it. And stop letting Darragh goad you like that. You're falling into his traps so easily even I'm embarrassed."


"Traps. He knows you're head over heels for Harry, he's just pushing your face in it," Alex said with erratic gestures that brought the remains of Draco's coffee in considerable peril.

He was about to drink it so it would be safe from any harm in the pit of his stomach when his mind backtracked. Only barely he prevented from spewing another mouthful out. "HE KNOWS? DID YOU TELL HIM?"

Getting another shove against the head was hardly what he suspected. "You prick, whatever makes you think I go around telling people you dream of getting into Harry Potter's pants?"

Draco was still horribly flustered and confused. Which probably accounted for the next stupidity, "How do you know-" he stopped in horror, closing his eyes.

Blaise, not too subtly, snorted.

"Let me rephrase that-" Draco began.

But Alex just patted him on the shoulder, and Draco silenced himself.

The rest of the day passed in a haze of miserable awkwardness. It was all well and good that his friends though him amusing in this state. But Draco was far from amused. He was exhausted and not even a shadow of his usual collected self. When he looked in the mirror he saw dark smudges under his eyes, his eyes almost too feverishly wide. In the last few days he'd lost weight, as he was prone to when stressed and had resorted to drinking what was easily double of his usual caffeine intake. The last, obviously, did nothing at all to keep his cool aloofness. Twitchy wasn't even close. He felt as though he were going insane.

It had started in such a strange moment, when he'd least suspected it. He'd honestly though that he was succeeding at being friends with Potter. He'd been comfortable with him. And you'd think that after you'd slept in a bed with someone, it would become clear whether or not you fancied him. Even touching Potter had left him relatively unruffled. Being with Potter had somehow put light on a facet of himself he hadn't been very familiar with. Not that he wasn't himself around his friends, but they just complimented his personality in a different way than Potter did. And he liked how he could interact with Potter; it was almost a relief at times. It was not a sexual thing.

Until that one morning. It wasn't because Potter had looked good in his clothes. Because in retrospect; holy hell. It had not been because Potter had looked so handsome, suddenly, even though he was still awkwardly built; his shoulders still a bit too wide for his adolescent frame and yet too skinny. It had been because he was attractive and yet the look on his face had clearly told Draco that he was not in the least aware of just how attractive.


Potter was attractive.

Draco still hadn't figured out why that seemed so different from handsome or good-looking. He thought it might be that the last two words were used to describe physical attributes. But attractive, in the way Draco's mind applied it, went beyond the physical and coupled it with Potter's awkwardness, his supreme stubbornness, his loyalty, his general thick-headedness and his charisma. His... Potterness, if you will. Potter attractiveness was accounted for by more than two thirds from his... Potterness. If that made any sense. It did in Draco's head.

People had told him he was ace at repressing, but he hadn't really appreciated that notion until he found out just how good.

He'd looked at Potter, wearing his jeans and looking as though he'd wanted to die from shame and Draco had opened his mouth the say something witty when desire had curved so sharply through his body that it left him quite terrified. It had just gone downhill from there. He'd booted Potter out, and was on his way to Everlind's when he suddenly found himself thinking about Halloween and what had very nearly happened in the bathroom. Even to himself he couldn't quite justify why he hadn't remembered that. He did, but didn't. Obviously he remembered picking a fight with Potter and getting his head smashed against the flagstones and he even recalled just what he'd said to get Potter that far. Somehow, though, the terrible intimacy and his own rampant emotions on Halloween had been conveniently erased from his recollections.

He's thought himself a master at deceiving people. But it turned out he was only a master at deceiving himself.

Add to that the total white-hot fury when Darragh had opened that stupid gob of his and the fact that his dreams had taken a turn into what could only be called a severe case of frustrated teenager hormones... and you had the perfect recipe for a completely crazed Draco Malfoy.

Not that he hadn't ever dreamt about sex, mind you. He was a healthy seventeen year old, so sex was a prominent topic in his dreams. Sex with Potter, though, was something new.

Being the coward he knew himself to be, he dealt with it in what had proved to be a fool-proof method in the past: he ran away.

Of course, what with the repressing issues, he had also managed to repress the fact that his method of tucking his tail between his legs and running was not at all as fool-proof as he believed. Then again it had never backfired quite as spectacularly as it did now.

He'd just had his last class before lunch and he'd been lagging behind as he'd been doing all week; the tuck-and-run method. The later he was in the Hall the less chance of seeing Potter. Potter-avoidance had been his prime objective this week. Of course he had not calculated the actual Potterness-factor in his brilliant strategy.

Meaning that ignoring Potter did not make him go away, as it usually worked with problems.

Draco found out just how true that was when he finally tucked his last book away (after re-arranging his bag three times and purposefully-accidentally dropping it every time so he had to start over) and turned to leave, only to find Potter standing in the doorway.

The yelp he gave was not as manly as it should have been.

"I didn't mean to startle you," Potter said.

He looked strange.

It took a few times to clear his throat, but in the end he managed a cool, "Quite alright, Potter. Let's not dawdle, though, I imagine you have a lunch to inhale? Homework to copy? I have to-" he'd been moving towards the door, intent on making a dash for freedom, but Potter quite purposefully barred his way, pulling the door not entirely closed, yet enough to make the message clear.

Freezing in his tracks, Draco glared at him, not at his face but just over Potter's right shoulder. "Potter, I have better things to do with my free period then being held prisoner by you, so if you don't mind..." he took another step, but Potter didn't budge an inch.

Since Potter didn't look like letting him leave any time soon, he took a step back again and snarled, "What do you want?"

Potter frowned at him, clearly annoyed, "I just want to know what's gotten into you? If it was something I said or did..." he gestured helplessly.

"It's not something you did, really," Draco flared, "you're just boring, alright? So why don't you crawl back to Weasel-bee and stop wasting my time."

"Stop being such a bastard!" Potter spat back, "What's wrong with you? I though we were friends?"

"Oh Potter," Draco marveled at how derisive his voice could sound all of a sudden, "friends? You didn't really think we were friends, do you? Friends is something use between equals. We're hardly equal, are we?"

Words were coming out of his mouth and Draco's brain just sat back watching the unfolding disaster, "I just thought it was fun to hang out with the local queer. On the telly they always make for good comical relief, but even in that field you are sorely lacking," he gave a false smile, "sorry to get your hopes up though."

He made to slip past Potter, but didn't even get close.

Oh dear, he thought meekly when Potter shoved him against a bench, hands clenched around Draco's biceps. It hurt like hell and Potter hadn't even got to the hitting part yet.

Potter was very close all of a sudden. Draco stared wide-eyed as Potter growled, "Don't. Lie."

"I'm not-"

His biceps screamed in protest as Potter bodily shook him, "Don't. You. Even. Dare!" he snarled, each word punctuated with a shake.

On 'dare' Draco accidentally bit his lip and hissed. It seemed to take of the worst out of Potter's rage since his hands stopped squeezing so hard. He did not let go though.

Draco heard himself pant as though he'd run a marathon and he stared in numb shock at the top of Potter's savage black hair as the latter bowed his head. There was a silence, only punctuated by their erratic breathing.

"Don't do this again. I thought you liked me," Potter shook his head and looked up, "I know you like me."

Voice quacking, Draco managed, "You were wrong. I don't like you. Now let me go."


"I don't like you Potter," Draco said, voice a bit steadier, "now let me go."

"Prove it."

"What?" Draco exclaimed, perplexed.

"Prove that you don't-"

"Potter, you're being childish," Draco interrupted and gave a wrench, trying to get away, but Potter's grip was final, "don't throw a hissy fit because I don't want to be your best mate. Let. Go."

Mouth making a funny shape, Potter said softly, "I think you're misunderstanding me."

"I hear you loud and clear-"

"I'm not talking about liking each other as... as..." Potter swallowed, "as a friend."

His heart was on his tongue and terror took over again, "Even worse than I thought, then. Feeling's not mutual. I recall telling you I found it disgusting. You," Draco heard himself say mildly and he was not directing the last to Potter at all, "are disgusting."

Potter bared his teeth and Draco did not even brace for the blow, because he was just so sick of himself. He did close his eyes as Potter once more knocked him into the desk and he automatically braced himself to keep from going over the other side, but Potter had not let go yet and the blow... didn't came.

"Lair," Potter said angrily, and kissed him.

For all his fury and blazing eyes, Potter was surprisingly gentle. His mouth was hungry and warm and Draco's eyes were wide-open, locked on Potter's black lashes fanned out on his cheekbones. It was also rather wet, but Draco suspected that was the blood from his lip.

It was brief.

Potter pulled back and let him go, blinking as if he'd been slapped awake. His chin was red.

He teetered on the desk for a moment, unbalanced, staring blindly at his blood on Potter's face.

Suddenly, just like his mouth took over when he was afraid or insecure, his body took over.

Draco's hands fished into Potter's jumper and with a strength he hadn't known he possessed he forced Potter backward, against the blackboard. Adrenaline was roaring through his veins when he put his mouth on Potter's savagely, hearing how the latter knocked his head into the board due to the utter force he'd used. Potter didn't seem to mind much, now that Draco was actually kissing him back. Recovering quickly from his surprise, Potter hands came up to Draco's head, his fingers curling into the nape of his neck. I don't know what I'm doing, Draco thought wildly, knowing he lacked any kissing-finesse. But then Potter's mouth opened just slightly, taking control a bit more and Draco stopped thinking at all. It was angry and desperate and hungry. And Draco's blood prevented them from really tasting one other, but Potter kissed him, over and over and Draco's hand curled out of their dead-grip on Potter's shirt and went up to fist again in Potter's hair. Like a thundering rhythm, Draco felt his heart beat in his chest and he could feel a tremor in Potter's hands as he finally managed to slide his hands up his shirt. They felt like hot brands against the small of his back. Instinctively Draco used Potter's hair like a handle, aligning their mouths better to make the kiss even deeper and fire was pooling at the base of Draco's spine.

Tearing his mouth away, quite an achievement considering the fact that Draco had a handful of hair fixed against the blackboard, Potter took a shrieking gasp. Their eyes met, Potter's eyes eerily green and hazed and utterly awed.

Draco had to wonder at that, since everything he'd said and done before the kiss had been hardly awe-inspiring.

Eyes still half-open Potter kissed him, almost chastely, his gaze boring into Draco's. He kissed him again, and again, still watching. Then his eyes fluttered shut and he dragged his mouth in an open, hot trail over Draco's cheek, his jaw and then his neck. Lips trembled there for a second, warm, and then he bit down on Draco's throat; sharp and quick and good. And at Draco's strangled intake of breath, he did it again.

He was quite horrified when he gave a helpless moan. So horrified in fact that he let go of Potter's hair to clap his hand over his mouth in shock.

Chuckling, Potter came up from his neck, eyes lit, and smiling. He kissed Draco's hand, and Draco removed it. Then he kissed his mouth again, his lips curving into a smile again when Draco kissed him back.

"Hello- OH MY-"

The door slammed shut.

It took Draco a moment to realize what had happened.

"No," Draco heard himself say, voice kissed rough, "Oh, God, no."


It should have been a marvelous day, having had Draco's mouth on his like that. But instead he felt like walking through a minefield, waiting for a bomb to go off. He had one class with Malfoy that afternoon, he could tell he was waiting for the same click underfoot just before the proverbial explosion. Each time someone opened their mouths to speak, Harry tensed, expecting to hear the worst. When it hadn't happened by last class, he'd gone nearly insane, his heart constantly rapping in utter panic against his chest. The bell rang and he gave a sigh of huge relief and started packing his bag. His hands were trembling. His fellow classmates were pouring through the door, ecstatic that the day was over, but someone came pushing through the rush.

He stumbled over to Harry, let his backpack fall to the ground with a loud thud and next thing Darragh whispered, "Is it true?"

Harry didn't manage to reply, and Darragh's hand went around his elbow and he repeated, "Is it true, did you-"

"Oh God," Harry managed.

Darragh looked at his face, blinked and let out a huff of laughter. Then he seemed to remember his urgency, "Harry. Listen to me, someone-"

There was no need for him to finish his sentence, Harry was grabbing his bag and rushing out the door. At first everybody stared at him, just because he pushed and shoved his way through the packed hallway, Darragh somewhere behind. But the closer he got to the exit, where Ron was waiting for him, the more people started whispering.

He'd nearly reached the entrance when he got stuck in the biggest knot of whispering students yet. He was frantically struggling to get through when he heard one voice pitched louder than the others say: "You must be a pretty bad lay, if your boyfriend cheats on you with another bloke."

Dread made his stomach go cold and he craned his neck, but the press of bodies was to dense.

He recognized Alex's voice loud and clear. She sounded supremely calm, "That's alright, I've been cheating on him, too."

There was no surprise anymore when he glimpsed Alex kissing Blaise Zabini. It made even more sense when he saw her lace her fingers through his and her other hand go out to Draco, who took it with no hesitation.

And you had to admire her flair when she said calmly, "Let's go boys," and proceeded with dragging them along.

Harry wanted to catch Draco's eyes, but the crowd rendered him invisible to everybody but those right next to him. Bewildered, he wanted to do something, shout maybe, but then there was Darragh, a hand at the back of Harry's neck, "He'll be fine, let's hightail it out of here," and he steered him away.

The general shock of the student body was not really focused on him, and while he got looks, they didn't stop him to make a scene as they'd done with Draco.

It was still snowing, thick and heavy. The ground was so thickly covered that walking through it was becoming an effort. Harry's urgency at leaving the building had not much to do with fear of the grapevine and his fellow peers. It had to do with Ron. He spotted his friends, waiting where they always waited and he jogged towards them.

Breath puffing out in the air before him, he stared at them. They'd heard. There was confusion and suspicion on some faces and Harry didn't even dare examining Ron's carefully blank expression too closely.

Finally Seamus and Hermione spoke in a jumble of "Harry" and "What is going on" and "Is it true" and "with Malfoy?"

Taking a breath Harry got out an "I-" but trailed off miserably.

The silence was full of unspoken words.

"Ron," he heard misery in the spoken name.

Ron help up a hand, effectively silencing him. He looked at Harry, furious, shook his head and with a bitter turn to his lips, steered his bike away. Harry watched him pass through the gates, mount it, and drive off.

The rest went with him.

Only when Darragh, who had wisely let Harry do this for himself, came up next to him and said, "Harry, listen-"

Listening was hardly what he wanted now, "I'm going home," he said dully.

"Harry," Darragh repeated, and in other circumstances he would have heeded the tone hinting that Darragh was about to say something he didn't know, "wait-"

But Harry was already walking away.


Sirius asked him over and over what was ailing him, until Remus stopped him, with merely a hand on Sirius' arm. Harry hung about, not saying much and constantly distracted, even Sirius' comforting worry not able to change his disposition. The first time Sirius had asked, Harry had been so tempted to just spill it out. But he felt strange, and it didn't matter that Sirius might understand. He didn't want the cliché talk amongst homosexuals about dealing with such situations and gay-angst in general.

When he walked down the stairs towards his apartment, he was thinking that it felt very much not a 'homosexual situation'. It was just him and Draco. Who happened to be a bloke. It had not much to do with the fact that Draco was a man and everything with the fact that he was Draco Malfoy.

That such a little thing could wreck such havoc, seemed utterly ridiculous compared to his feelings and emotions towards the blonde.

When he opened the door, the phone was ringing like mad. Harry ignored it, only interested when his mobile rang, because that was the only number Draco had. If it was Ron, Harry couldn't talk to him over the phone. Besides, the expression on Ron's face didn't really give Harry much hope that he'd be calling.

It was as though someone had scooped out his insides and had replaced them with squirming maggots. He felt awful. And his heart just didn't stop racing.

He lumbered about for nearly three hours, started to watch a movie only to turn it off again, observed Nyoka gulp down dead mice and curl up happily in her tank and started to clear the room just to stop half-way through. There was a set of pajamas laid out on Sirius' bed and Harry put them on the table, expecting Remus to fetch them later on. He kept this pointless flitting about until it was a decent time to go to bed.

He took a scalding shower and was toweling his hair when the doorbell rang. Wishing Remus would just use the key instead of ringing the bell each time, he wound the towel a bit more securely around his hips and went to open the door.

"You can come in without buzz..." Harry faltered, "oh."

"Don't have a key," Draco Malfoy said. His teeth clattered violently as he added, "Can I come in?"


Chapter title is from The Verve (this is is my absolute favorite song).

Hope you all loved that, make sure to let me know! And please applaud my beta; who despite being buried in work, is still by my side!