Chapter 1: Sponges
In which detentions are given out and sub-consciouseses...ses - whatever - torment.
A small motion of the hand, tipping up a small vial into the goblet, making sure he drank it; that was all it took.
Or so she thought.
Draco Malfoy drained his goblet of pumpkin juice and set it back on the table. He leaned back in his seat, feet crossed under the table.
Pansy Parkinson hid the empty vial in her pocket and turned to the silver-haired boy to her right. He noticed her intent stare and shifted his chair away an inch or so.
"What?" he answered irritably.
"Do you love me?" A couple of the other Slytherins were looking at Pansy in surprise; it wasn't like her to just blurt stuff out like that.
"No," he answered instantly, his voice blank. His next sentence was full of scorn. "Why would I?"
"Well, what do you think of me?" Another couple of heads turned.
"I think you're an annoying, self-obssessed, whiny little limpet, who should never have been heard, seen, thought or known of, your intellect rivals only garden tools, and I would sue the person who did that to your face. Now go away and stop wasting my oxygen." He blinked once, twice, three times, looked rather surprised, then glanced down at the remains of his breakfast in silence. Pansy gaped at him in shock, tears stinging the corners of her eyes. She got up from the table and left the Great Hall in a hurry.
"What was that?" Blaise Zabini asked from across the table. He didn't look as shocked as the rest of the Slytherins; instead, he was smirking.
"That was me telling Pansy what I thought of her," Draco replied calmly. "Why?"
"Nothing, I just thought it was funny." He said nothing for a second or two, then looked as though he had just remembered something, and said, "Hey, what was the answer to question thirteen in that Potions thing? I just couldn't get it."
"What Potions thing?" he replied.
"The list of questions Snape gave us to do for today. You did do it, right?"
"No." Draco got up from the table quickly. "Excuse me." He walked from the Hall calmly, then started to run as soon as he was out of sight. After all, he had urgent homework for his next class, yet he didn't want people to think that he was running after Pansy. He had less than ten minutes before Potions. Oh dearie me, what a terrible mess I'm in, were not his current thoughts.
Dammit, why had he forgotten, why? Now Slytherin had dropped below Gryffindor by ten points, just because he hadn't remembered to do his stupid Potions homework.
He told himself that it didn't really matter, it was only ten points, and what's ten points? That's nothing. But now the rest of the seventh years were mad at him for putting Gryffindor in the lead again. The younger years had enough sense not to show their anger around him for fear of being hexed, but they were definitely mad too. Well, they couldn't all stay mad at him forever. Someone would put them back in the lead quickly enough. Maybe him. Probably. If Gryffindor didn't win their next Quidditch match, anyway. Or if Potter didn't do something nauseatingly heroic. Again.
Not only was Gryffindor in the lead, he had a detention for hexing Potter across the classroom. It hadn't even worked, he had missed by an inch or so and hit Weasley. Not quite as satisfactory, but still funny. Potter had retaliated for his poor friend (who was hiccupping streams of small blue bubbles which floated upwards, then thickened and floated downwards, bursting on the floor and coating it with a layer of sticky blue stuff) by sending back another hex which had turned Draco's legs to rubber, making him fall over when he stood up (the Jelly Legs hex, typical of Potter to use a child's spell). This had earned the two of them detention. Great. Three hours with Potter in the dungeons, scrubbing the equivalent of Smurf snot off the floor. This should be fun...
So now he was sitting in the common room, staring at the fire, watching Goyle flick crumbs of toast into the flames. Crabbe sidled up.
"Are we ahead yet?"
"I don't know, Crabbe, probably not. Not if Potter's gone and rescued someone again."
There was a lengthy pause.
"How about now?"
Draco sighed. "No."
"How about -"
Draco cut him off, and held up his hand, clutching an imaginary ball.
"Hey, Crabbe," he said, waving his fist about in front of the moron's face, then throwing the non-existent object sideways towards the stairs. Crabbe glanced from Draco's empty hand to the stairs, then dashed away to look for the 'ball'.
Draco put his head in his hands as he wondered how many brain cells Crabbe and Goyle possessed in total.
I have got to start making friends with smarter things, like comatose dogs or brain-dead hamsters, he thought. Maybe then I'll be able to have an intelligent conversation.
Crabbe returned with a small red ball in his hand, and handed it to Draco, who looked at it in surprise, shrugged, then threw it down the stairs again.
Harry Potter and his friends were sitting in the Gryffindor common room watching Pigwidgeon chase a fly (they were all bored).
"I don't know (hic) why he does it, it's not like (hic) he's gonna eat them," Ron said. He was holding a bowl which he caught the bubbles in before they drifted to the floor. It was half-full with blue stuff. "And why is it always (hic) me who has to throw up (hic) icky stuff?"
"They're not as bad as slugs," Seamus said.
"Yeah, well they're still (hic) pretty gross."
"It can't be that bad, they smell like bluebells," he noted.
"Yeah, Seamus, but you (hic) can't eat bluebells. And that's what it's like. Eating (hic) bloody (hic) bluebells. It's gross."
"Hey Hermione." It was a reply in chorus.
"What on earth happened in Potions? I heard you got detention, Harry, and oh my word, what is that smell!"
"Bluebells!" Seamus answered chirpily.
Hermione sneezed. "Oh, great. Hayfever. Summer's over already, this isn't fair!" She sneezed again.
"Why are you (hic) sneezing? I thought hayfever was (hic) caused by pollen."
"It used to be, but now it's an automatic reaction. I smell a flower, I sneeze. It's awful." She sounded stuffed-up already.
"Count yourself lucky," Harry said gloomily. "I've got detention with Malfoy."
"Well you shouldn't have retaliated, then," Hermione said, tutting. She sneezed again.
"How did you know I -"
"But it was (hic) funny when Malfoy got his ankle (hic) twisted around the table leg."
"Yeah..." Harry said, smiling slightly at the memory.
"And then (hic) knocked over a table onto Crabbe's foot."
"Yeah, that was funny," Seamus agreed. "But Jelly Legs was a bit of a boring hex. There's tons of better ones."
"Yeah, well I couldn't think of any at the time."
"Where (hic) were you in Potions anyway, Hermione?"
"Professor Vector was helping me with my Arithmancy project," she said, punctuating it with another sneeze.
"Why are you doing a project?" Harry asked.
"To improve my grade," she answered simply, before sneezing again.
"Like it (hic) needs improving."
"When's your detention, Harry?" Seamus asked.
"Eight till eleven tonight," he replied. "I've gotta scrub floors without magic... get your blue stuff off them," he added, looking at Ron.
"It's not my (hic) fault he hexed me! If (hic) anything, it's yours for (hic) moving out of Malfoy's line of (hic) fire!"
"Even so, you should have grabbed a bowl sooner, before you coated half the classroom floor with it."
"Would you stop that?"
"Sorry 'Mione, I (hic) can't help it." He stretched the bowl out to catch a stray bubble and missed because it floated too far. "Okay, could someone catch that?"
Seamus caught it in his palm, then wiped his hand on his robes.
"That's disgusting," said Hermione.
Seamus just shrugged.
"Try having them (hic) come out of your mouth."
"Oh, stop complaining."
Seamus was staring at Pigwidgeon, his head going round and round, following the small owl's flight path.
"Oh, look, he caught it!"
Eight o'clock. This detention has come about eight hours too soon, Draco thought as he pushed open the heavy door to the dungeons. Potter wasn't there yet, so he just sat on a desk, keeping his feet out of the slime. He didn't want to mess up his shoes, after all, they were new.
Eight o'clock. Okay, maybe eight-oh-three. Couldn't the clock have waited a little longer for this hour? Harry thought as he pushed open the heavy door to the dungeons. Malfoy was already there, sitting delicately on a table, swinging his feet idly over the side to avoid the blue stuff. Typical Malfoy, not wanting to get his feet dirty. Or wet. Or was that hands? No, wait, feet wet, hands dirty. Right. I have got to get my cliches straightened out someday, he mused as he walked into the room.
"Malfoy. You could have started without me."
"What, and do more than my fair share of work? What do you take me for?" He hopped down lithely, stepping clear of the slime, and picked up a bucket. "Come on, get out your nice pink rubber gloves and get scrubbing," he taunted, smirking.
"Shut up, Malfoy." Harry picked up the other bucket and pulled the sponge out of the soapy water. He dropped to his knees at the edge of the mess and began scrubbing. Malfoy still stood, not moving. "What's the matter? Do you not want to get your hands dirty?" That's the right one, with the dirty hands and the wet feet ... Okay, Harry, this is your subconscious speaking. Leave the cliche-analysing alone.
He mentally shook off his subconscious police-guy he was suddenly imagining - his brain was being extremely strange today - and looked at Malfoy, who was staring at a spot about eight inches in front of him, with a dazed look on his face.
"Um, Malfoy? Are you going to start cleaning the floor any time soon?"
Malfoy jerked out of his daze and looked down at Harry with an expression of mild confusion.
"Yes." He also kneeled and began scrubbing at the opposite side of the mess. Harry glanced at Malfoy's pale hand going in circles on the floor and fought not to laugh.
After a few seconds Malfoy looked down at the sponge he was holding, and realised that it was pink and heart-shaped. His cheeks flushed.
"Potter, I think you may have picked up the wrong bucket," he said as calmly as he could.
"You picked yours up first, and I think you made the right choice," Harry replied, smiling.
"No, you have the crappy sponge, you've got my one."
"You've already got your one, Malfoy."
"Stop moving it about so much and give me the proper sponge!"
"Malfoy. This is my sponge. That is your sponge. Just scrub."
"Fine," he sighed, sounding huffy. He dunked the sponge into the bucket and scrubbed away at the bubble-gunk.
"Listen to yourself, you're like a child," Harry said. "Next thing you know, you'll be arguing with me over who gets the blue jumbo crayon and who gets the pink one."
"No I will not."
Honestly, and this is supposed to be one of the only Slytherins with intelligence.
They both scrubbed in silence for about five minutes. Or at least there was silence outside of Harry's head.
I wonder if he's still mad that he gets the pink sponge...
He has quite muscular arms...
Why am I looking at his arms?
You know why you're looking at his arms.
Are you sure?
I'm your subconscious, I'm always sure.
Oh shut up, what do you know?
A lot more than you, that's for sure.
I cannot believe I'm having a conversation with my own subconscious. Again.
I heard that. And also, I do not like the police-guy you imagined me to be ten minutes ago. That is nothing like me.
Okay, so what do you know?
You like Malfoy.
I do not like Malfoy.
You do. Why were you looking at his arms, then?
I dunno, they were all kinda muscly and cool. But that doesn't mean I like him. I like girls. Not Malfoy.
Okay, look at him.
Fine. There, I looked, happy?
And what did you see?
Malfoy. Who else?
Not who. What.
A boy cleaning the floor. With surprisingly muscly arms. And nice cheekbones.
There you go.
What? I don't want to see the muscles, or the nice cheekbones, or the ... little tongue sticking out cos he's concentrating... Shut up and leave me alone, you're screwing me up!
I can't believe he won't give me the normal yellow sponge. The one that isn't shaped like a heart. The one that isn't pink. I'm sure Snape, or Filch, or whoever left these buckets here, meant it for him.
He's looking at my arms, why is he looking at my arms?
He's smiling. Is that a good thing? Is he laughing inside or just smiling?
You are way too paranoid, pal, calm down. Just because Pansy drugged you with truth serum is no need to panic. Just try and steer the conversation (if any) away from questions.
She did what?
You worked that out three hours ago.
I'm gonna kill her.
Remember, you had that little niggling thought when you kept answering rhetorical questions?
See? You even answer your own rhetorical questions. You remember things in your subconscious all the time, and forget them later. It doesn't mean they're not still there. Even stuff you don't really hear. If you barely heard it but didn't register it, it's still all in your head, just not quite accessible, until -
Until I get a pink sponge, go crazy and start talking to myself?
Exactly ... But not always with the sponge.
He's looking at me again.
He likes you. You know that.
I do? Wait, he what?
He - likes - you.
Really. You can tell by the way he keeps glancing at you, can't you?
I suppose so.
That was another rhetorical question, dammit, stop answering yourself!
I can't help it, leave me alone!
Why is it a problem, anyway? He likes you and you like him. What's the big deal?
The big deal is that he's straight! I think. And so am I! Or at least I was until he smiled at me...
That was a year ago. And he wasn't smiling at you. He was smiling at his friends, glanced around, and happened to catch your eye while still smiling.
Still, he smiled, while looking me in the eye. And it was so lovely...
Oh, don't start that again. Do you know how many times you have relived that smile? It was one smile. One!
But he has a really nice smile!
I know, I was there. 'He had nice, straight, white teeth like not many people do anymore, and he had a sparkle in his eyes.' You've thought about that so many times that I know it by heart.
He's looking at me again. And he's smiling again! I'm sticking my tongue out, that's why. Stop it, quick!
I still don't see what the problem is. You should go for it. If he likes you and you like him, what's stopping you?
There's this little thing called reputation, and I would like to keep it as much intact as I can. Coming out would be the equivalent of smashing it to pieces with a giant hammer.
So you admit you're gay? To me? To yourself?
Yes, fine, I admit it!
And the day has come when Draco Malfoy breaks the trend and steps out of the closet. At least, in his head.
Stop talking about yourself in the third person, it's confusing.
And talking to my own subconscious isn't?
I bet he's doing the same...
Harry looked up at Malfoy again, and saw that he had stopped sticking his tongue out and kept glancing over at him. The sponge he was holding just kept scrubbing over the same spot, which was already clean (or as clean as dungeon floor slabs get). Harry had scrubbed the blue slime from at least a square metre, but all Malfoy had done was a small area about twice the length of the sponge.
"Um, Malfoy? Are you planning to get any more done?" Malfoy looked at him, then at the floor, and he went a bit red.
"Yes. You know what it is? It's the sponge. I can't work with this, give me the other one."
Malfoy huffed again and moved the hideous sponge to another bit of floor.
He's surprisingly cute when he huffs... Dammit, my subconscious was right! Okay, I like Malfoy, happy?
At last. I thought you'd never say it.
"How come you didn't get the homework done?" he asked after another minute of so-called silence.
"I forgot it."
"You seem very tense. Why are you so nervous? It's only detention, not an exam."
"I'm nervous because..." A look of extreme concentration came over Malfoy's face, and he finished with, "...my subconscious is continually berating me." It had sounded like he was going to say something else.
"Yeah. What's yours telling you?"
"Nothing, really. Yours?"
Malfoy clamped his lips together and shrugged, but it seemed forced.
"I don't see why I have to do this," Harry complained. "I didn't hex Ron. Do you see the point in all this?"
"I mean, it's unfair, don't you think?"
"I can understand why you have to do it, but why me?"
"Because Snape doesn't like you."
"Yeah, I know that. Magic would be so much quicker. This just seems pointless, doesn't it?"
"You realise these are rhetorical questions?"
"Yep." Malfoy looked strained and frustrated, and Harry heard him mutter, "Damn you, Pansy."
"Why, what did Pansy do?"
"She gave me -" Malfoy put his hand hurriedly over his mouth as the last two words of his sentence were spoken, stopping Harry from hearing them. But what he had said was evident from that action. Truth serum.
A delighted giggle rang inside his head. Ooh, this should be fun... Harry could've sworn he heard hands clap excitedly.
Malfoy grimaced, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, realising he had put blue stuff on his chin. He glanced nervously at Harry, who was smiling.
"So, Malfoy. Tell me, what are you thinking right at this moment?"
Are you gonna tell him or what?
In time, in time.
Now's as good a time as any.
Will you shut up!
Not till you tell him.
What do you want me to say?
Well, be subtle, of course, but not too subtle, cos that'll take ages, and I don't have that long.
What, do you have an urgent business meeting with my common sense?
Well as a matter of fact...
Oh, he's smiling again. That's cos he heard me say truth serum, didn't he?
So now he's gonna ask me questions, and I'm just going to blurt everything out. Great. That's just what I need.
He'll only ask you if he's interested. So yeah, I'd say he's gonna ask.
He has a nice nose.
"So, Malfoy. Tell me, what are you thinking right at this moment?"
Where did that come from?
I don't know, it's his head.
No, the nose thing.
Oh my god, what do I say, what do I say?
You don't have a choice, in the next split second, you're gonna say that exact thought that was running through your head. Which was the nose thing.
Kill me. Kill me now.
"You have a nice nose."
I have a nice nose?
"I didn't -"
"It's okay. I like that you like my nose."
"But I didn't mean -"
"Don't forget to scrub."
Malfoy gave him a half angry, half bewildered look and continued scrubbing.
That was mean.
Ask him something else.
Ask him if he likes your hair.
"Malfoy, do you like my hair?"
"Yes, it's all shiny and floppy." The last word was half-muffled when Malfoy bit his lip in an attempt to stop talking.
Ask him if he hates you.
But he's going to work out that I know about the truth serum now.
I think he already knows that you know.
"I know we've had our differences. Has it led you to hate me?"
"No, I don't hate you."
"You don't hate me. Okay, so then you like me?"
"As a friend?"
"No." Malfoy dropped the sponge and wiped his wet hands on his robes.
See what I mean?
"As more than a friend, then?"
Malfoy clamped his left hand over his mouth to prevent himself saying anything else. All that came out was a short muffled noise. He smirked at Harry somehow through his hand, and Harry saw it in his cheeks and eyes rather than his mouth. But it was a smirk never-the-less.
He picked up the sponge again with his right hand and started scrubbing again, still covering his mouth in case of any more questions.
Don't worry, we'll get past it.
Harry smiled and continued scrubbing. They had just under a quarter of the slime shifted now, and another two and a half hours left to finish it in. Plenty of time.
I cannot believe he's doing this! It's unfair! He knows about the truth serum, and he's totally taking advantage of it.
At least you know he likes you now. Cos you wouldn't listen to me before, would you?
No. Dammit! I wish this stuff would just wear off.
Well, that's not going to happen for another two and a half hours.
What! That's when this detention finishes! That is so not fair. I'll be blurting truths and stuff to Potter until we have to go, and then it wears off?
And what kind of questions are these? His hair? I mean, what is that?
Well he does have nice hair. It's floppy. Dammit! Now he made me say it! Why won't he leave me alone?
Your own fault for thinking it. Anyway, this whole ball of twine is unravelling -
What are you, a cat?
In a past life, probably... Anyway, you two are finally going to do something about it all.
Do something? Oh, no no no, there will be no doing of anything. At all. None.
That's what you think. I have plans, and I also have partial influence over how you act. Ha.
I hate you.
"It's a bit like truth or dare, isn't it?" Harry said a few minutes later.
Malfoy looked at him quizzically, and motioned with his eyebrows for Harry to explain.
"You know, I ask a question, you answer. But there's no dares."
Oh come on, this is good stuff! I can't just leave it uncommented on!
Malfoy wobbled on his knees as he scrubbed, slightly off-balance.
"You know, it's a lot easier if you lean on one hand. Say, your left hand, for instance."
Malfoy leaned on his left hand and continued scrubbing. He then realised his mouth was uncovered.
"So, do you like me as more than a friend?"
"Yes." Malfoy wiped his hands quickly and covered his mouth with both, but too late. He glared angrily at Harry, who just smiled. "Damn Pansy, damn my subconscious and most of all, damn you, Potter!" he exclaimed, dropping his hands from his face, realising that his attempts to stop any further truths were futile.
"I like you too."
"This is all my subconscious's fault for poisoning my mind with these weird ideas, and he -" Draco stopped short. "- You do? He was right about you, too!"
"Right about what?"
"That you liked me, he kept saying it, and I didn't believe it, and now it's true!"
"I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who has a subconscious with a mind of its own, so to speak."
"He said he had plans," Malfoy said, almost pleadingly, as if he would do anything, yet at the same time nothing, to stop those plans.
"My imagination just ran away. Off, into the distance." He stared at the wall, as if staring after his fleeing imagination. "And it's faster than I thought."
"Oh, it's nothing perverted or anything. It would make someone blush, but not much."
"Can we not do this?" Malfoy asked.
"Not do what?"
"This whole thing about liking people."
Harry shrugged, knowing it would come up again sooner or later. "Okay." He blocked out his subconscious for a while, and worked blankly, his head filled with a peaceful quiet.
And so they scrubbed in silence.
See, I'm not the only independent-minded subconscious! There are others!
Yeah, I'm sure Harry's mind counts as sane. But did you hear? He likes me too!
Yes, I heard. And I would do the I Told You So dance, but unfortunately I have no physical body of my own and as a result, I cannot.
What are you on about?
...I dunno... I know what I do know, though, and I know you just called him Harry inside your own head.
Uh huh. So there.
You can be awfully childish sometimes, you know that?
So can you.
"It's faster than I thought."
I wonder where his imagination's running to. I hope it's somewhere nice, cos I like being part of fantasies. Quick, say something to make him think the opposite.
There we go.
What did you do that for? He might have told us what it was about.
Nah, that's not his style.
"Can we not do this?"
You know this whole thing's gonna come up sooner or later, don't you?
Yes, I know, I know. I'm just putting it off in the hope that it comes up later rather than sooner.
Why? Only good things can come from this.
Good things? Like mockery, gossip and reputation-crumbling? These are good things?
Well... no, but you don't even have to tell people. It can be a secret. You know how easy keeping secrets is, don't you?
Yeah. Okay, we'll talk about it later.
I know I'm being annoying, but you're going to have to do something about this tonight, or it's just going to hang for weeks, maybe even months. Who knows when you'll get a better chance to talk.
I heard, "I know I'm being annoying," and then white noise. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to scrub. You shush.
I said shush!
He blocked out his subconscious for a while, and worked blankly, his head filled with a peaceful quiet.
And so they scrubbed in silence.
Another two hours had passed, and not another word had been passed between the two of them, not even between themselves and their subconscious selves.
All but another three square metres was scrubbed clean of the gunk, and the bit left should take them the remainder of the time.
They didn't even glance at each other, both concentrating on the floor and so neither had any idea that they were moving closer and closer together, until their heads were almost touching.
Harry moved forward another inch and bumped into Malfoy. They both looked up abruptly, bringing their faces within mere centimetres of each other. They both stared silently for a full minute, until the first movement was made.
Malfoy's eyes flicked downward to the lower half of Harry's face for the briefest of moments, then back to his eyes, but there was no mistaking where he had been looking. Harry took the hint and moved his head forward slightly to touch his lips softly to Draco's, then moved back again.
Malfoy stared at him, eyes full of surprise, then moved backwards and continued quietly scrubbing.
After a second or two, Harry saw his tongue dart out to lick his lips briefly, and a faint smile flickered across his features.
Harry smiled, and scoured another inch or so of blue from the floor.
I cannot believe you just did that! My protégé making the first move, I'm so proud.
Oh, shut up.
You don't mean that.
Actually, I really do. And since when am I your "protégé"?
Come on, Harry, where's your fun side? Wasn't that it a moment ago? What're you going to do about it? Are you gonna do it again? Please say you'll do it again!
Stop with the questions already! I can only answer one at a time, and preferably none of them.
But are you gonna do it again?
I don't know. Maybe. Probably.
You're grinning again.
Draco, if you start repeating "ohmygodohmygodohmygod" over and over again, I may just leave your cerebrum altogether and take a holiday in your cerebellum.
Parts of your brain! Don't you pay attention to anything I say? On second thoughts, don't answer that. Your cerebellum is in control of coordination and balance. So I can make you fall over and drop forks and stuff.
Why are you so mean to me?
Anyway, if you start repeating the aforementioned phrase, you'll be getting no help, guidance or possible counselling from me.
Can I just say it once?
Only as an expression of how good a kiss it was, nothing else.
Well, it wasn't exactly a kiss, more of a brushing of lips, but oh yeah.
Do you think he'll do it again?
I hope so. By the grin on his face, I'd say yes.
Why don't you? I've been telling you to do that for the past two hours, but you seemed to have checked out mentally.
Yeah, I kinda switched off. And are you crazy? Me, make advances? ... well, maybe.
Half an hour later, Harry wiped the last smears of blue from the floor and squeezed the sponge out into the bucket. Malfoy did the same with the pink heart-shaped sponge, dropping it disgustedly onto a table at the side of the room.
"So..." Malfoy said slowly.
"So," Harry agreed, nodding.
"See you tomorrow?" Harry suggested.
He nodded. Then he stepped forward, closing the metre or so between them, and kissed him back. He pulled away, and looked into Harry's eyes, grinning mischieviously.
"See you tomorrow," he repeated.
Malfoy brushed past him with the air of someone very pleased with himself, and started walking down the corridor.
When he was about six feet away, Harry called after him. "Draco?" He turned round, mouth slightly open in surprise at Harry using his first name. "Catch."
Harry tossed him the yellow sponge.