Draco Malfoy doesn't spend very much time alone at school, but occasionally he makes his way up to the astronomy tower; although never on the weekends as to avoid the couples; he wants to be alone, not feel lonely. Crabbe and Goyle would question him on this odd behavior when, as rarely happened, they noticed. He told them he was having an affair with one of the castle ghosts and this appeared to satisfy them, although they snickered moronically henceforth whenever Peeves was in their vicinity. Before Arthur Weasley met his gruesome end, before Harry and Hermione were discovered embracing by Professor Snape, before Draco pressed a satin couch pillow to his chest to stem the heat leaking from his heart, he made his way through the frigid halls of Hogwarts, comfortably wrapped in an expensive black sweater. This time his journey is reflexive; there are only three Slytherins staying at Hogwarts for the holidays, the other two are rather nasty looking first years with annoyingly high voices, and Draco can be alone in the common room pretty much whenever he wants. Up the many stairs to the Astronomy tower he went anyway, emitting soft clouds of breath the same shade as his eyes. Coming finally into the open, he is startled to find himself not alone as he had planned.

Standing with his back to him is Harry Potter, his unmistakably rumpled hair standing in soft peaks around his head as if he had systematically clutched his hair into a kindergartener's idea of a crown.

"Potter," Draco says.

"Malfoy," Harry replies without turning around.

Their voices contain no malice, as though the failure of magic means the failure of emotion.

Draco walks forward to lean against the balustrade next to Harry.

"The cloud up there," Draco says, "looks like a pirate."

"Yeah," Harry says, without looking.

"Look, there goes Snape in his underwear," Draco drawls looking up at the sky, clear except for the rapidly dissolving pirate.


"Your mother was a mud blood."

Harry whirls, looking like himself for the first time in a week; a slight flush overlaying the sleep-deprivation darkened skin below his eyes; his fists clenched at his side, knuckles white. There is a strange flash in his eyes, disappointment, or perhaps vindication; Draco is satisfied to see any flash there.

"What did you say?" Harry growls, his head tilted as though he might charge, bull-like.

"You heard me," Draco says languidly and, turning away as if feigning unconcern, leans against the balustrade.

Harry does charge. Pulling Draco around sharply by his expensively clad shoulder, Harry pushes him up against the balustrade, his hands sliding roughly to Draco's neck. The pressure of Harry's hands chafes the delicate skin below Draco's ears, turning it pink. Harry puts pressure on Draco's trachea; the struggle to hold the resilient pipe closed is surprisingly exhilarating. Draco's eyes go wide. Harry smiles.

Harry feels something hard pressed against his stomach, glancing down he sees Draco's wand. From the choked gasping Draco is emitting, he is struggling to find the breath to cast a spell.

"Petrificus totalus," Draco wheezes, sounding entirely different from his normal self; an unnatural note of desperation in his voice; a change Harry relishes.

Nothing happens.

"Well," Harry says calmly, "so much for that spell. For once Voldemort gives me a hand." Draco winces; maybe at the sound of the name, and maybe because Harry has given his neck a particularly vicious squeeze at the trial of thanking Voldemort, even in jest.

Releasing Draco's neck, Harry reaches for the wand and snatches it easily from his limp manicured fingers. Flinging it from the tower elicits only a vague murmur of protest from Draco. Rubbing his neck with his other hand, the sardonic expression has already returned to finely chiseled, faintly purpled features.

"Well, Harry," Draco drawls, raising one eyebrow, "you've got me between, er, a rock and a hard place."


Harry and Hermione made their way back to the common room, carefully not touching; feigning embarrassment over having been caught by Snape. Luckily it is only a ten minute wait for the Pink Lady. Apparently the rumors, or "unverified news," as she refers to it, have been especially discouraging because she isn't in the slightest interested as to why they have been wandering the corridors alone.

The common room is empty; the dreary days of hard eating impose a strict curfew.

"I'll walk you up," Harry says absently.

"Yeah, alright," Hermione replies, equally absent; uncharacteristically forgetting something: that the stairs are enchanted to repel males.

Moodily they make their way up the stairs, listening to each other's foot falls on the thick carpet. When they reach the top, both spin to face one another in astonishment.

"The stairs…" Hermione mouths.

"Funny bit of magic to fail," Harry says, looking more bemused than worried.


For the first time that day Harry kisses someone and it takes a moment to register as a kiss; in this case Draco interprets the sudden movement as a threat and nearly brings his knee crashing into Harry's groin. Later Harry will be shocked by his second sudden embrace of the day; but then Harry is perfectly calm, more amused than anything else. For the second time in less than that many hours Harry has wiped the sardonic composure from Draco's face.

"Sick," Draco gasps, spitting viciously into Harry's face.

"You liked it," Harry replies equally viciously, pressing the other boy against the wall harder than amorously necessarily, "you've got your own 'hard place.'"