Harry watched the lone figure exiting the entrance hall, and his brow furrowed. The feeling that had been building in him all day was near breaking point as he realized what that person was going to do.
What the fuck am I doing? He thought as he began to run in pursuit.
"Malfoy! Hey, Malfoy!"
The taller boy stiffened at his name and turned deliberately, his face its usual cool mask. He saw who had called him and sneered.
"Potter. What the hell do you want?"
Harry caught up to him, breathing a little heavily. Malfoy continued to glare at him, his silver eyes unreadable.
"I know what you're doing," Harry said when he had caught his breath.
Malfoy flinched and his face lost a little color.
"What are you talking about?"
"Don't play dumb with me, Malfoy." Harry snapped. "I saw your face when you got that letter at breakfast. You weren't in your classes today. And now you're sneaking out after dark? I know damn well what you're doing."
Malfoy stared, his eyes seeming to penetrate through him. Harry continued.
"You don't have to do this. You have a choice."
Something in the other boy snapped and his fist shot out, colliding with Harry's nose. As Harry reeled, blood streaming down his face, Malfoy stood over him, quivering with rage.
"Don't you DARE presume to tell me about my life!! You have no fucking idea what the fuck goes on in my life, so shove it Potter! Stop playing the fucking hero and leave me the fuck alone!"
Harry shakily wiped his nose on his sleeve, wincing at the pain. "You don't want to do this, Malfoy. You don't want the Mark. You can say no."
For a moment, he thought Malfoy was going to hit him again, and he tensed, preparing for the blow. Then the Slytherin turned away sharply, cursing under his breath. The moon glared down at them and Harry shivered as he finally realized the chill of the night air.
"You're not like them, Malfoy. Don't do this."
Malfoy whipped back around, and Harry was shocked into taking a couple of steps backwards by the intensity in his eyes.
"And how do you know that, Potter? I'm Malfoy the Death-Eater, remember? I'm evil incarnate, spawn of Satan. Who says I'm not like them?"
Malfoy froze and Harry could tell that even though he was looking at him, he wasn't seeing him at all.
"What are you talking about?" he whispered.
"You know, Malfoy. I've seen the way you look at her, the way you watch her. You don't call her Mudblood anymore, do you realize? It's a dead giveaway." Harry paused to see the effect of his words before proceeding. Malfoy was still, unmoving. "You love her."
That got a reaction. Malfoy's gaze shifted from whatever he was looking at in his mind and back to Harry. For once, it wasn't full of loathing.
"That obvious, huh?" The corner of his mouth twitched in a sad smile. Harry was shocked. He couldn't ever remember ever seeing a smile of Malfoy's that wasn't a smirk.
"No, not really." Harry ran his fingers through his messy hair. "No one else knows, I don't think. I'm just perceptive."
"When it comes to Hermione."
Harry looked at him challengingly. "Yes."
Malfoy shook his head and gave a short, bitter laugh. "So why are you telling me this? I already know that I'm in love with her. I don't need any goody-goody Gryffindor to tell me that."
The black haired boy swallowed hard. This was harder to say then he had anticipated. I'm such a fucking idiot to do this. "Because she loves you back."
Malfoy's face drained of all remaining color. He closed his eyes and drew in a ragged breath. "You had better not be fucking with me, Potter."
"I'm not." Harry rushed on before he came to his sense. "You said it yourself, I'm perceptive when it comes to Hermione. I know what she likes and dislikes, I know what makes her happy and unhappy. And I can tell from the way she looks at you, the way she watches you, that she loves you." That hurt to say. Sure, he had known it for a while, but admitting that she loved someone else, his rival nonetheless, was something else entirely.
Malfoy tilted his head a little to the side and voiced the thought that was hanging unspoken in the air. "You love her too."
Harry glared defiantly. "Yes. I do."
"Then why? If I became a Death-Eater, it would certainly improve your chances. Why are you stopping me from doing the thing that would help you win her?"
Harry licked his dry lips, tasting blood. "She deserves to be happy. And I don't want her with me if she wants you." He looked up, smiling faintly. "And I reckon that, deep down, you're not such a bad guy after all."
Malfoy snorted. "Gee, thanks." His expression softened a little as he turned to look at the lake. Scuffing the ground with his foot, he stuffed his hands in his pockets. The silence stretched on as Harry watched and waited.
Malfoy suddenly stopped and straightened, drawing himself up to his full height. He turned back to the other boy and Harry got the distinct impression that Malfoy had suddenly become a man in those few seconds.
"Well, looks like I'll have a lot to explain to my father in the morning."
Harry nodded, relief he didn't know that he would feel breaking over him. "You might want to tell the Headmaster first."
Malfoy shook his head. "No. Hermione."
Harry looked at him and for a moment the two were linked forever, both standing under the same moon and loving the same woman. Then he shifted and it was broken.
The taller boy, no, man, Harry corrected himself, nodded gravely and offered his hand. Harry took it. Malfoy smiled and went back up the steps to the castle.
Harry expelled a deep breath and sat down by the edge of the lake. He watched the waves gently lap against the banks, and even though he knew he had lost something forever, he was content.