Certain, part 5: Resolution
Disclaimer: Always and forevermore, J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter.
A/N: Here, at last, is the final installment of Certain. Alternating Harry and Draco POV. Many thanks to *everyone* who encouraged me throughout this series. Major appreciation goes to HP slash queen Rhysenn, and also to hah and Bennie for their beta-reading skills.
Harry paused outside the portrait hole and checked that his robes were straight and his hair … well, that his hair wasn't any more mussed than usual. He gave the new password, ("Hornswoggle") and slipped into the common room.
"Hey, Harry, where've you been? The rest of the team came back over an hour ago!" Ron called from his place by the fire.
"I stayed behind to polish my broom and get it ready for Saturday's match," Harry lied smoothly. In the last couple of months he'd gotten rather good at that; the thought made him grimace mentally -- perhaps he'd have made a good Slytherin after all.
"For an hour?" Hermione pulled her nose out of her book and looked at him questioningly.
"Oh, sure," Ron said, before Harry had a chance to think of a good reply. "You know how valuable his Firebolt is -- Harry needs to take good care of it if he wants it to last. Can't just go running around buying new ones, you know." Then he rolled his eyes. "Well, you probably could, Harry, but -- really! Much better to use your zillions of galleons to keep Honeyduke's and Zonko's in business, eh?"
Harry smiled. He knew how much Ron loved his favorite shops. "Exactly." Then he checked his watch and sighed. "I suppose I should get some studying done before bed. Hang on, let me get my books."
Once upstairs, Harry shut the dormitory door and leaned against it with a groan. He was starting to feel confused and was wishing he had someone to talk to. "I need a shrink," he said, turning around to face the small mirror that hung on the back of the door.
"Now, now, dear, that's a bit harsh, don't you think?" his reflection replied soothingly.
Harry ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "I'm involved with someone who is a complete git," he muttered. "Once I found out how Draco felt about me, I thought getting together with him would change things; you know, that we'd start to find common ground and forget our differences and stuff like that. Be friends, even if we couldn't act like it in public. But nothing's changed, not really. And I still want him. I want him and I hate him, all at once. Doesn't that sound like someone who needs therapy?"
His reflection only shrugged unhelpfully.
With a sigh, Harry turned away from the mirror and began to gather his books and writing materials. Everything seemed to remind him of his predicament, taunting him. His unfinished essay for Potions. The Care of Magical Creatures assignment on dragons. What was left of a torn piece of parchment; he'd ripped off a small scrap to write Malfoy a note explaining why he'd be late to one of their assignations. "Why me?" he muttered. "Why couldn't I just find some nice Hufflepuff or something?"
"Who're you talking to, Harry?"
Harry spun around at the sound of Ron's voice. "Er … no one. I mean … I was just talking to myself."
"Ah. Well, you know, you really only need to worry when you start answering back," Ron quipped. Then he sobered a little. "Anything wrong?"
"Oh, come off it, Harry. I can tell you're lying." Ron came further into the room and sat on the edge of Harry's bed. "What's up?"
"I've just … I've just got something on my mind," Harry stalled. "Nothing you need to worry about."
"So I shouldn't worry about your twisted little affair with Malfoy?"
"What?!"Harry stared at Ron. "That's ridic-- You couldn't possibly mean-- I have no idea what--" The red-headed boy merely grinned knowingly at him. "How--how did you know?" he finally mumbled.
Ron shrugged. "Your dreams."
"Yeah, you've been having some pretty … er … interesting dreams lately, I daresay. Very restless. And you've moaned Malfoy's name a couple of times." Ron shuddered. "After the first couple of times, I figured it wasn't a nightmare -- you'd have told us if he was threatening you or something."
Harry buried his face in his hands. "Oh, God. Did anyone else hear? Did I say anything else?"
"To answer both questions, not that I've heard. You know Neville - he sleeps like a dead man. And his snores drown out just about everything else, so I doubt Seamus or Dean noticed your … er … behavior, either. Besides, I only heard you the first night because I'd gotten up to get a drink of water. Like I said, I thought maybe you might be in trouble or something, so I made a point to keep one ear open after that."
"Damn," Harry muttered, pulling his hands away to look at his friend. "So, I guess that's why you covered for me when Hermione questioned my excuse tonight."
Harry looked at Ron suspiciously. "What?"
"Er … Hermione already knows." Ron looked uncomfortable. "Ok, ok, fine. I told her the bit about your 'nightmares', 'cause I thought Malfoy had found some way to haunt you. I thought maybe she'd know some subtle, untraceable curse we could put on him to make him stop. But she was the one who guessed what was really going on."
"So -- you guys knew I was lying all along? You were just making sport tonight?"
"Yeah, basically. Well, for the last couple of weeks, anyway." Ron grinned as Harry scowled. "Oh, come off it, Harry. You've been deceiving us for ages, and you've ribbed us plenty of times about our relationship. We deserved to have a bit of fun."
Harry merely harumphhed in response. Ron had a point, but still….
"So, it's really true, then," Ron asked, breaking into Harry's grumpy thoughts. "You and … and … Malfoy?"
Harry shrugged. "Yeah, I guess."
"You guess? You don't know? You're just going around snogging people in the dark, without knowing who they are?"
"No, it's Malfoy, all right," he sighed. "But it's just so messed up. I mean, I think he gets hotter every day, and when we're together it's just--"
"Whoa! Waaaayyy too much information, Harry," Ron interrupted with a shudder. "There are some things about you, and definitely things about Malfoy I never want to know, ok?"
"Sorry," Harry looked chagrined. "It's just that -- well, you've seen us. We can't stop sniping at each other, no matter what else goes on between us."
"You mean all that bickering is for real, still? We figured you were just faking it, once we guessed what was really going on."
Harry sighed. "No, it's real all right. I'm beginning to think all the sparring is like a twisted form of foreplay, for the effect it seems to have on us." He smiled ruefully as Ron turned slightly green. "Sorry, Ron."
"Um… Maybe I should just let you talk to Hermione about this," Ron said, getting up. "I think if I get too many images of you and Malfoy … together … I'll be the one having nightmares."
"Gee, thanks." Harry rolled his eyes.
Ron shrugged apologetically. "I'm sorry, Harry. I know you're together and all, and I want you to be happy. But he just-- He's … well, he's Malfoy, you know? And I just can't seem to get past that. Talk to Hermione; I'll always be your friend -- you know that, right? -- but she's the better listener when it comes to this sort of stuff." He gave a small smile. "Although she probably won't hesitate to just haul off and slug him again if she thinks you're unhappy. Remember when she did that, back in our third year?"
Harry smiled at the memory.
The hallways were crowded, packed with a sea of black-robed students making their escape after morning classes. Draco Malfoy grimaced as he made his way down the corridor toward the Great Hall for lunch, constantly adjusting his steps to avoid being bowled over by the lumbering Goyle. It had taken him a long time to get used to all the jostling, and he still wasn't that thrilled by it. He was used to space. The Malfoy mansion was huge; he had his own room at home, an enormous chamber that took up nearly an entire wing. And because most wizards feared and respected the Malfoy name, he had always been given a wide berth by everyone, both at school and away. No one got too close, either emotionally or physically. Well, Harry had crossed that physical barrier, but--
Something or someone suddenly yanked at his left sleeve, hard. Caught off-guard and off-balance, Draco was unable to stop the momentum as he tumbled into a small storage closet, which had just opened up. Someone slammed the door shut, plunging everything into darkness.
Draco whipped out his wand. "Lumos," he hissed. Harry's face immediately came into view, his green eyes glittering in the wandlight.
"Potter, it's broad daylight and there are a million people around." Draco grumbled, reaching out to ignite the candle stub that sat on a nearby shelf. He extinguished his wand and stuffed it back in his pocket. "Couldn't you have just sent me a note if you wanted to move our next … meeting …up?"
Wordlessly, Harry held up the invisibility cloak and then let it drop. "Relax. No one saw anything," he snapped.
"Yeah, but I'm sure going to have some explaining to do about why I didn't show up for lunch," Draco countered. Then he paused as he took in the way the low light illuminated Harry's features; nearly all their meetings had been at night, and his body was well conditioned to react whenever Harry and dim lighting coincided. Suddenly, his appearance at the Slytherin table seemed a lot less important. "On the other hand," he murmured silkily, pushing Harry up against the closed door and pressing close, "Crabbe and Goyle will probably be too distracted by the promise of steak and kidney pie to notice if I'm a bit late."
He leaned in to kiss Harry, feeling the familiar jolt run through his body as their lips met. No matter how many times they did this, there were always plenty of sparks between them. It was almost as if their polar-opposite traits and high-adrenaline encounters fueled a true electricity when the two boys came together.
But just as Draco was starting to lose himself in the kiss, the Gryffindor boy suddenly put a hand up against Draco's chest and pushed him back.
"Malfoy," he whispered, panting a little, "that's not why I dragged you in here."
Draco stepped back, covering the unexpected sting of rejection with his trademark protection -- sarcasm. "Of course not, Potter," he drawled, exchanging his purr for a harsher tone. "I know how you like to build up your snitch-catching muscles by randomly yanking people into dark closets. It's well-known all over the school."
"Be serious," Harry replied, a little more steadily. "I just -- I wanted to talk to you."
Draco folded his arms across his chest. "Well? Go on, then."
Harry bit his lip. "Do you like me?"
"In case you somehow failed to notice, I was just trying to kiss you. Does that normally mean something different to you?"
"Yeah, I know you like me -- physically. But what about the rest of me? Do you still hate me for … well, for all the reasons you seemed to hate me before we started all this?" Harry ran a hand through his hair. "I guess what I'm trying to ask is -- is this all there's going to be between us?"
"What, you want a marriage proposal or something?"
"No! Damn you -- see, this is what I'm talking about. We have this 'relationship', for lack of a better word, going on in private, but whenever we're not -- you know…."
"Bringing each other to new levels of sexual rapture?" Draco said bitingly, rolling his eyes at Harry's sudden prudishness. "Come on, Potter, you're a big boy now. You can say it."
"Fine," he snapped. "When we're not immersed in major make-out sessions, we're constantly biting each other's heads off."
Harry's last words brought an immediate image to Draco's mind, and he leered suggestively in the other boy's direction.
"Come off it, Malfoy. You know what I mean." Harry sighed. "It just seems so twisted to hate each other by day, and be stripping each other naked in some dark corner by night. I-- I just wondered if there was any way we could be find some middle ground. You know -- maybe even be friends."
A new image sprang to Draco's mind, this one not at all suggestive. A picture of himself and Harry going around with cheery, joined-at-the-hip chumminess; just like the relationship Harry currently had with Weasley and Granger. Always together, hardly ever a moment's trouble between them. Booorrrring. The thought of morphing his electric, spiced-up situation with Harry into something so nauseatingly clean-cut was appalling. His reaction was instant and instinctive.
"I should have known," he spat, stepping as far away as the cramped confines would allow. "You really are a goody-goody through and through, aren't you, Potter? I thought you were having fun, taking this walk on the wild side. Giving in to your baser instincts for a change. But now you want to turn it into something boringly domestic. Yeah, I can see that working real well. Sorry, Potter, I don't think I can come to your tea parties and play nice with your little friends." He bent down to retrieve the invisibility cloak, which he threw at Harry. "Here, put this on. I'm leaving."
Harry looked dazed, but his Quidditch reflexes remained intact; he caught the cloak without looking, his bewildered eyes fixed on Draco. "But--"
Draco gave Harry one final glance over his shoulder as he started to turn the doorknob. "I am who I am, Potter, and that's a Malfoy and a Slytherin. You want more, go find it with some kiss-ass Hufflepuff or something. We're through."
And without another word, he slipped out of the closet and rejoined the cocoon of his fellow Slytherins in the Great Hall. He should have known better than to get involved with a Gryffindor. It would be good for him to devote all his time to his housemates again. They, at least, knew the importance of Slytherin pride and power. And distance.
In the following weeks, however, Draco found, to his consternation, that he was actually frustrated by the homogeny of Slytherin attitude. After the near daily contact with his antithesis, he found his housemates' uniformly elitist attitude…. Well, it was comforting, in a way, but also boring -- as boring as he'd imagined Harry's proposal to be. In Slytherin, no one challenged him -- no one dared to. They were all too interested in being his friend, as if some of the Malfoy image would rub off on them by their proximity.
Friend.Draco snorted, ignoring the sideways glances of the other students in his common room. He had always called Crabbe and Goyle and many of his other housemates "friends", but, when he really stopped to think about it, it was all a matter of power. Everyone was always jostling for power, for control, for the top position. And, true to their Slytherin nature, they would use any means to achieve their goal. Draco liked the challenge of jockeying for, and maintaining, his position; for the first time, however, he actually began to wish someone would just be with him for him, not for the prestige and honor a Malfoy associate got. Had anyone ever just wanted to know Draco?
He shook his head angrily. God, now he was beginning to sound like Potter. He didn't want to become some namby-pamby Gryffindor. He. Was. A. Slytherin. Dammit. And a Malfoy. He liked space. Emotional space and physical space. Honor and privacy. Since when did he care about frivolous relationships? About other people liking him for reasons other than power? About people getting to know him?
His stomach still knotted up just thinking about the goody-goody relationships Harry seemed to have. But -- there wasn't any other sort, was there? A middle ground between power plays and sugary sweetness? Harry had suggested such a thing. But Harry also honestly drove him crazy at times -- ok, a lot of times -- with his stubbornness and Gryffindor-based views; their differences were undeniable. Draco stopped to consider the situation. He hadn't exchanged more than ten words with the black-haired boy since that day in the closet, and even then it had only been about their most recent in-class Potions assignment. Could they really get along outside of a purely physical relationship?
Was it worth finding out?
As the weeks passed and final exams loomed, Draco decided it was.
"Harry, I think we're going to go inside for a bit," Ron said with a yawn. "It's kind of hot out here; it's making me sleepy."
"Yes, and we should practice the Incoquo Charm some more," Hermione noted, packing her things into her bag. "I didn't want to do it out here, since Filch would skin us alive for turning the grass blue -- or any color, really -- but I know I really need to practice. Flitwick said he'd give bonus points for certain colors, and my periwinkle needs work. We can't afford to fall asleep now." She rose to stand beside Ron. "Coming, Harry?"
Harry didn't bother looking up from his Transfiguration book. "In a minute," he replied. "I just want to finish my notes for this chapter. I'll come in as soon as I'm done."
"All right," Hermione replied, as she walked away with Ron. "Don't be long. But don't skip the bit about transfiguring poisonous creatures, either. That's important."
"I won't." Harry stretched out on his stomach to read the rest of his chapter, scratching out notes on his parchment as he went. Then, with just two pages to go, a shadow suddenly fell over him.
"Hang on, I'm coming," he muttered, a little crossly. Honestly, Hermione's enthusiasm for Charms practice got a little out of hand sometimes.
"Really, Potter? Out here in the open? How crass."
Harry looked up at the sound of the voice. "Oh, it's you, Malfoy," he grimaced. "I should have known you'd twist my words. So, to what do I owe this honor?"
Draco Malfoy dropped gracefully to the grass near Harry's side. "Well, to quote you, 'I just wanted to talk to you.'"
"About?" Despite his anger, his stomach flipped, as it always did, to have the sleek, blond-haired boy so near.
"You know all that stuff you said to me a few weeks back? About middle ground? What did you mean by that?"
Harry rolled to his back and propped himself up on his elbows. "Pretty much what it sounds like -- something between hating each other and secret snog sessions. Talking. Hanging out. Things like that."
"Would we have to be nicey-nice all the time like you are with Granger and Weasley?"
Harry snorted. "You obviously haven't watched us that carefully. There've been times over the years when we've hardly spoken to each other." Then he shrugged. "But, to answer your question -- I hardly think that's likely, do you, Malfoy? 'Nice' isn't really in your vocabulary. Besides, I thought you didn't want to have anything to do with me."
"I changed my mind."
"So that's it? You insulted my friends and my idea, and said we were through. And now you're back saying you changed your mind? Why should I believe you?"
"Fine, don't." Draco started to get up. "I just thought maybe you had a point with that middle ground idea, but I guess not."
Harry watched him prepare to leave, feeling the familiar frustration rising within him. What was it about Malfoy -- about them together -- that drew such strong reactions from them both? Strong attraction and strong conflict. And yet … Draco had been willing to make a step toward the middle. Harry could only imagine what that must have cost him. How could he offer any less? "Wait," he said quickly, before Draco could get very far.
Draco turned at the sound of Harry's voice and looked at him, gray eyes questioning. "Yes?"
"Were you serious about wanting us to spend more time together? Try to be friends?
The Slytherin boy walked back to where Harry sat. "I'm always serious, Potter."
Yes, Harry realized, he was. Draco took everything seriously, even his troublemaking.
He thought for a moment. "Come visit me this summer."
"Come visit me. At my aunt and uncle's house. Look, no one will know you there, so you won't have to worry about anyone seeing us or anything. We can just hang out and do stuff."
Draco seemed to still be processing the concept. Come visit you -- in a muggle home?" He wrinkled his nose a little.
"Hey, you wanted to know more about me, so here's your chance. Besides, I hate these particular muggles. You can insult them all you like. In fact, be my guest."
Draco laughed. And it was a genuine laugh, not a cruel or mocking one. It was the first open expression of amusement Harry had ever seen on the Slytherin boy. "Hmmm. That could be fun."
"Yeah. And if I mention that you come from a powerful wizarding family, they'll probably be too scared to fight back. They'll just leave us alone." Harry tried not to dwell on how true this statement was, nor on the fact that that power had traditionally supported Harry's worst enemy.
Malfoy's expression shifted from amused to suggestive. "How alone?"
Harry grinned, his focus back on Draco. "Alone enough." He realized he was going to have to do some fancy footwork when he first got back to the Dursleys, to get them to agree to this visit in the first place. A few well-placed Sirius-references would probably get him grudging permission. But …
"What about your dad, though? I'm sure he won't be too keen on your spending any time with me."
Draco waved a hand dismissively. "I'll deal with it." Then he looked serious again. "Are you sure about this, Potter?"
Harry didn't immediately reply. Instead, he got up and pulled Draco behind a nearby hedgerow. After a quickly whispered Averto Charm to ensure privacy, he leaned in and gave Draco a long kiss. Then he smiled. "I'm certain."
7/31/01 (Harry's birthday!)
Many thanks to DevilChild, Misako (sorry you had to imagine the broom shed scene on your own ;-) ), Prongs, PepperjackCandy (Hmmm. I smell a potential alternate scene….) Yaoi fan on a Sugar High (see PJC's comment), Allie Potter, Chester (Hee - glad you caught the subtleties), Shadow Maxwell-Yuy (I also wonder what it would be like if they *were* open), Cat Samwise (Shalom!), CrystalStarGuardian (glad you liked the Snape/Sprout tidbit - and I vote for the chicken ;-) ), California Love, Tani, Shades of Hades, phat girl, ZX, twitteringpig (your feedback means even more, since you're not normally a slash reader -- thank you for giving this a chance!), Su Yi (I went as fast as I could), foggynite, Sandra Solaria Dees, and Nmissi. Additional huge thanks go to my fellow yahoogroup listmoms Tabitha (movie trailer, Hallmark card - I adore your reviews, always), kellie (one of these days we'll stop apologizing for writing such long responses to each other, lol), and Lissanne (glad you liked the sucking poison out bit). And one final thank you to my faithful betas Rhysenn, hah, and Bennie. This had started off as a 1-chapter whim, my very first HP fic, and it's thanks to the support and feedback from all of you that it became the story that it is. You have no idea how much that means to me -- thank you! I hope you enjoyed the ending to the tale. -- Plumeria.