Careful Who You're Caught With

disclaimer - It's JKR's, and she'd best hurry up with the last book!

warnings - Slash (Harry/Draco), language, um…kissing? Yeah… Oh, this was written BEFORE HBP!

"Oy, Harry, look!" Ron exclaimed, shoving a package under Harry's nose the day before winter holidays began. The green-eyed boy flinched back, trying to get a glance at what he was so forcibly being shown.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Not sure. It's a present from Fred and George. It's addressed to both of us," Ron replied, holding the box next to his ear and shaking it. "It doesn't sound like much."

"Well, I hope it's not breakable," Hermione commented lightly, reaching across the table to take it from him. She set it down on the table so they could all stare at it.

"Why don't we open it?" Harry suggested.

"We can't! It's not Christmas yet!" Ron exclaimed. Hermione rolled her eyes.

"How about reading the card they sent, then?"

"What card?"

"The one that says 'OPEN NOW' in big red letters," she said dryly, pointing it out to the boys.

"Oh," Ron said sheepishly, while Harry chuckled. Ron quickly picked up the rolled up letter from where the owl had dropped it in the middle of the table, and scanned it briefly. "It's the latest of their holiday products," he reported, still reading. "We're supposed to open it right when we get it… They said they expect us to put it to good use, but to be careful about whom we get caught under it with." Finished, he dropped the letter back onto the table, and picked up the package again. "So what the bloody hell is it?"

"Ron!" Hermione admonished, but the boy ignored her, already digging into his gift.

"Well, what is it?" Harry asked excitedly, peering over Ron's shoulder after he'd stilled, looking curiously into the box.

"It's…it's…some leaves?" He pulled out a small twig of leaves that looked painfully familiar to Harry, and gazed at it in confusion.

"It's mistletoe," Harry said flatly, as Hermione opened her mouth to supply the answer. She looked put-out that he'd already known.

"Mistletoe!" came the surprised answer. The red-headed Gryffindor hastily dropped it back into the box. "Why would they send us THAT?"

"Thought they'd send some holiday cheer?" Harry suggested. He picked up one of the sprigs, noting that there were two in the box. "I guess we each get one. They said it's a product of theirs, though. Wonder what it does." Not thinking of any possible consequences, he started to hold it above his own head, but Ron quickly grabbed his arm.

"Don't do that!" he hissed, looking around warily. "You have no idea what they've done to it! It could…could…it-"

"Yes?" Harry looked amused.

"Well it could put whoever's under it in a…love…trance…or something," Ron finished weakly. Harry blinked. "Oh, I don't know! Fine, screw yourself over." He crossed his arms grumpily, and looked expectantly at his fellow Gryffindor. Though, admittedly, Harry was now a bit worried as to what would happen. He glanced around, eyes landing on the Irish boy sitting next to him, and reached up to hold the mistletoe above the boy's head.

"Cheers, Seamus!" he said cheerfully, and the boy looked up, before grinning.

"Aww, mistletoe!" he exclaimed, turning to smile at Dean, who Harry hadn't realized was sitting on Seamus' other side. "Happy Christmas, Dean!" Seamus grinned again, and leaned forward to smack a kiss on the black boy's cheek.

"Augh!" Dean cried, nearly upsetting his oatmeal. "What was that for?" He reached up and rubbed absently at his cheek.

"Mistletoe," Seamus explained, pointing upwards. Dean followed the path his finger was showing, and when his eyes met Harry's, he quirked an eyebrow. Harry chuckled sheepishly.

"Eh, sorry, just experimenting," he said, and then plopped back down in his seat and turned to Ron. "Well, they don't seem to be acting any different." Ron rolled his eyes.

"That's because it's Seamus, and he would kiss Millicent Bulstrode if you stuck them under mistletoe together." He sighed, staring at the mistletoe again. "Oh well, I guess we'll find out eventually."

"Yes," Hermione agreed, "but not now. We have class." Ron nodded and said goodbye to his two friends, shoving Fred and George's present into his bag before heading out of the Great Hall. Harry and Hermione gathered up their stuff and began the trek down into the dungeons for Potions.

Harry, through some extreme miracle, had gotten a high enough O.W.L. on his Potions exam to get into Snape's N.E.W.T. level class. The amount of students taking said class was low enough that they were all piled into the same class, no matter what house they were from. With the absence of Ron, Harry had done his best to be paired up with Hermione, but because this was Snape's class and he liked making life difficult for Harry, such was not the case. The Potions Master hadn't been very pleased to find Harry in his class, so in the first lesson he'd assigned partners, predictably pairing Harry with his favorite rival.

"Malfoy," Harry said in some sort of greeting as he dropped his books onto the table next to the blonde's. The other boy merely glanced up and gave him a slight nod, frown deepening and his face looking resigned, before turning to look back at the front of the classroom.

Harry sighed and sat down heavily, resting his cheek on his hand. The Slytherin had been a bit of an enigma this year. His father hadn't remained in Azkaban for long, escaping a week before Harry's birthday, which had consequently left everyone in a right state trying to figure out if the Death Eaters were planning an attack or not. Everyone had been surprised when Draco had turned up on the Hogwarts Express, because most people had assumed he would join his father. The boy had refused to talk about it, insisting he had no idea where his father was nor any idea about the Dark Lord's plans.

Towards Harry, however, nothing had changed. If anything, Malfoy was acting worse than he had the previous year when he had Umbridge to use an excuse. The blonde was furious about his father's imprisonment and even more mad that now he had no idea where he was, and he blamed it all on Harry. It was different though; there were no jibes about Mudbloods, or even about Harry's parents. He hadn't even made fun of Ron's family yet. The insults were geared towards Harry's schoolwork, his clumsiness, his clothes… Small things, and it usually left the Gryffindor annoyed more than anything else. Malfoy would tease and insult and taunt until Harry would finally snap, and more often than not the two boys ended their arguments with random scuffles in the hall. As far as Harry could tell, though, that's what the blonde was aiming for.

And surprisingly enough, the fights didn't bother Harry so much. He'd been in the hospital wing so often by Halloween that the professors had decided that, since detentions weren't working, Harry and Draco would have to heal on their own from now on. Harry'd spent much of November with either one or two black eyes. Currently, he was nursing a rather sore stomach, which showed through the several purple bruises splotched beneath his shirt. Not that he didn't give as good as he got. He knew the blonde was wearing a turtleneck today only so people wouldn't see the angry bruises left from Harry's fingers when they'd been curled around his neck two days previous.

In a way, Harry found their fist fights relieving. It was an outlet for all his stress and anger and frustrations. He was still sore over losing Sirius, and hitting Malfoy was the closest he could get to killing the boy's Aunt, at the moment. Harry suspected that was half the reason neither boy had been chucked out of school yet.

"POTTER!" Harry blinked and jerked, eyes focusing on Malfoy's fingers, which were snapping in front of his face. "I've been trying to get your attention for the past five minutes, you dense prat! Get the ingredients, would you?" the blonde demanded, pointing to the storage room. He leaned on the table behind them, tipping his stool onto two legs, and Harry rolled his eyes and glared at him.

"Whatever," he muttered. He gathered up everything they needed, with Hermione's help, and dropped it all onto their table.

"Good," Malfoy said, still leaning back on his stool. Harry supposed he was going for the 'I-own-the-world' look. "Now set up the cauldron and I'll tell you what to do, since you screwed it up last time. I can't have my Potions grade suffering because of your incompetence, Potter." Harry breathed in deeply.

"You know, it might possibly go better if you bothered to help out," he said lightly, as if suggesting a good book to read.

"I seem to have trouble standing too long, recently," the blonde said, with a careless wave of his hand. "I think it has something to do with my getting dizzy due to shortness of breath. See, this great barbarian oaf crushed my larynx the other day."

"Was this oaf that much stronger than you, then?" Harry asked, smothering an amused grin as he began mixing potions ingredients. He could practically feel the Slytherin bristle beside him.

"No, he just happened to get in a cheap punch," Malfoy growled. Harry grinned, before quickly hooking his foot around one of the remaining legs of Malfoy's stool and yanking, causing the stool to fly out from under the other boy. Draco fell back against the table he'd been leaning on, eyes wide and startled, before collapsing to the ground on his back.

"Cheap like that?" Harry asked innocently, peering down at his partner. Draco's eyes narrowed as he winced and pushed himself up onto his elbows and opened his mouth to retort, but Snape was descending on them in a flurry of black robes before he could speak.

"Mr. Potter! Just what is going on here?" he asked darkly, sneering at him before turning his gaze onto Draco. The blonde winced again.

"Malfoy fell off his stool, sir," Harry replied, vaguely wondering why he even bothered trying to make up a story. Snape's eyes narrowed further, and he glanced at his Slytherin student.

"Is this true, Mr. Malfoy?" he inquired, not sounding at all happy. Somewhere along the line, even Snape had grown tired of the boys' fighting, and had stopped being so lenient with Draco.

"It bloody well is not! Uh, Professor," Draco added hastily.

There was a slight pause, and then Professor Snape spoke slowly. "Get up off the floor, Mr. Malfoy," he said, "and get back to work!" Draco stood up quickly, brushing off his robes and looking slightly sheepish when he noticed the rest of the class was staring.

"Yes, Professor," he said quietly, and when Snape turned his glare on Harry, he quickly nodded as well. Snape gave an exasperated sigh, and strode away, his cloak billowing behind him.

"'Yes, Professor'" Harry mimicked in a squeaky voice, snickering. Malfoy dug his elbow into the other boy's side, and Harry slapped his arm away. Frowning, the Slytherin grabbed at his Gryffindor counterpart's hand, and attempted to twist his arm behind his back. Harry squirmed, pinching the other boy in the side with his free hand and the blonde released him, pushing him instead. When Harry overbalanced, he grabbed at Malfoy's robes, and the next thing anyone knew, both boys were rolling around on the ground, throwing punches at each other and even the odd kick. They were hauled up by their collars only a few seconds later and then practically dragged into the hall.

"Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Potter, I do not know why you feel the need to have these ridiculous fights nearly every single day, but if you not desist in the very near future, I assure you, status and family and prophecies aside, I will find a way to have you both suspended, if not expelled!" Snape shouted, causing both boys to stare wide-eyed at him. "I won't bother giving you detentions, because from past experiences this year, I know it will accomplish nothing," he continued tiredly. "Twenty points from Gryffindor and Slytherin," he held up a hand to stop Malfoy's protesting, "and neither of you will receive credit for today's potion. Now get out of my sight!" With that, he stormed back into the classroom and slammed the door in their faces.

"This is all your fault, you know," Malfoy mumbled, turning to walk down the hall.

"My fault?" Harry repeated incredulously, quickly following the other boy. "How is this my fault? If you weren't such a bloody prick-"

"I'm the prick!" Malfoy exclaimed, turning around so quickly that Harry almost rammed into him. "Potter, you have been the bane of my existence since before I met you!" Harry shoved past him, rolling his eyes.

"Well that's a bit more your father's fault than mine, don't you think?" he said flatly.

"Don't you dare talk about my father, Potter!" the blonde exploded, and Harry slowed to a halt to look at him.

"It's funny how you yelling at me in no way makes me want to stop talking about your father," he said lightly, "I mean, it certainly never stopped you from talking about mine." Draco frowned, stepping closer to Harry so that they were only inches apart, because the Gryffindor had held his ground.

"At least, Potter, you know what's happened to your parents," he said, deadly quiet. He turned away to stalk down the hall.

"Malfoy, your mother-"

"Is missing," Draco replied tightly. Harry gasped slightly.

"Oh," he said softly.

"Has been missing," the blonde continued, turning around to glance at Harry out of the corner of his eye, "since late July."

"When your father-"

"Yes, Potter, when my father escaped and decided to also go missing," Draco said angrily, marching back up to Harry and poking him the chest. "So don't talk to me about my parents, and how I used to fault you for yours, because at least you know what happened to yours! I have no idea where mine are or what they're doing. The Dark Lord wouldn't get rid of my father, I'm fairly certain of that, but he has no need for my mother and the only reason she could possibly be with them…would…it makes me sick even thinking about it," he hissed, eyes lowering. Harry stared at him silently.



"Merlin, would you let finish a bloody sen- what?" Harry's eyes widened, jaw dropping open slightly.

"I'm kidding. What, can't take a joke, Potter?" Draco said, backing up and crossing his arms to give Harry a smug smile. "Please, my mother's at home lounging about all day; I got a letter from her this morning." Harry continued to stare at him in shock, which was slowly melting away into anger. He could feel his fists clenching at his sides. "Honestly, as if she'd dirty her fingers flouncing off to work for the Dark-"

He didn't get to finish his sentence because Harry's fist was swinging into his jaw, and yet another fight broke out between them.

& & & &

It was much later in the afternoon when Harry finally made his way into the common room.

"Harry!" he heard Hermione call, and turned towards the fireplace where his two friends were sitting. "Harry, where have you been all day? I haven't seen you since Professor Snape threw you out of Potions, and-" She broke off here, staring at the disheveled boy before her. "Harry," she scolded, "what have you been doing?"

"Um…" The green-eyed boy looked a bit sheepish, and scratched the back of his neck. "I was out flying," he finally replied, though he didn't meet either of his friends' eyes.

"Fell off your broom, did you?" Ron commented sarcastically. Harry absently touched his cheek, wincing at its soreness.

"Oh, well…I meant I was just out flying now. This…ah…well I kind of got into a fight with Malfoy…again. Earlier."

"Oh, Harry," Hermione sighed, beckoning him over while Ron snickered. Harry tentatively walked over and let Hermione grab his chin and cast a simple healing spell.

"Thanks," he grinned. He leaned over the couch, spotting the box from Fred and George resting between his two friends. "Have you found out what it does yet?" They looked confused for a second before catching onto what Harry was referring to.

"Oh, the mistletoe, you mean?" Ron replied. He handed the box to Harry, shaking his head. "No, as far as we can tell, it's just plain old mistletoe." He frowned. "Bit disappointing, really."

"Did you test it again?" Harry asked.

"Well…no, but-"

"I've checked it over, there's no love trance or love potion or anything spelled into it," Hermione cut in.

"You sound so sure of yourself," was Harry's reply. "Happy Christmas, then!" he said cheerfully, and held a piece above Ron and Hermione's head. Ron promptly blushed, glancing nervously at their bushy-haired friend, while Hermione rolled her eyes and pursed her lips primly.

"Really now, Harry, be serious," she said, shaking her hair out of her face.

"Oh I am serious," the raven-haired boy grinned. "Pucker up, Hermione!"

"Harry!" Ron shouted nervously.

"This is ridiculous," Hermione said, exasperatedly. She gathered up her books and went to stand up off the couch, but suddenly jarred and dropped back down as if she'd hit her head on an invisible wall of some sort. "Ow! What…?" Tentatively, she lifted up her hand and all three Gryffindors watched as it apparently was blocked by…something.

"H-Harry…" Ron started to say, reaching out to his sides only to find that invisible wall there again. Before he could stop himself, Harry started snickering. "Harry, it's not funny!"

"It's bloody hilarious! Ron, your brothers are geniuses!" Harry exclaimed through his laughter. Then he yelped suddenly, yanking his hand away from the mistletoe. It remained hanging in the air, as he cradled his hand slightly.

"What was that?" Hermione asked quickly.

"It-it burned me!"

"Burned you?"

"Yeah…" Harry reached for the mistletoe again, but retracted his hand immediately and starting laughing again. "Oh, oh that's priceless! You can't move it!"

"No- what- no! Wait, what do you mean?" Ron stuttered.

"You can't figure it out?"


"We have to kiss," Hermione spoke up, still cautiously feeling around for whatever was surrounding them. "It's…there's some sort of…of force field around us. I bet it won't disappear until we've kissed. And apparently you can't move the mistletoe." Not that she sounded unhappy about that. Ron swallowed nervously.

"Force field?" he repeated weakly.

"Muggle term," Harry offered.

"I know what it means!" Ron snapped, and Harry held up his hands defensively. He watched as his two friends glanced nervously at each other, and Hermione's lips quirked up into a shy smile. Harry looked at them intently. "Um, Harry…?"


"Harry, if you don't mind…" Hermione said pointedly, glancing at the boy out of the corner of her eye.

"Oh…right." Grinning again, Harry dropped down behind the couch and sat with his back against it.


"I'm not leaving! You'd better get a move on before you sprout horns or something," he said cheerfully. He heard some rustling on the couch and then silence, so he carefully turned around and peered over the top of it. Ron, still bright red, had one hand gently holding Hermione's chin as he kissed her softly, while she looked like she was in pure bliss. He let them continue on for a few moments, before speaking up. "Awww, well it's about time, isn't it?" he said, and the two promptly broke apart, the mistletoe dropping to the couch as they did.

"A-a-about time for what?" Ron stuttered nervously, glancing away from Hermione. The girl quickly started straightening out her hair and clothes as she stood and moved away from the sofa.

"Yes, Harry, it was only because of the mistletoe," she said quietly. But then she paused, face going still as her eyes narrowed. "Why else would Ronald have any cause to kiss me?" Before they could answer, she gathered up her books and swept up the stairs to the girls' dormitories.

"Wait, Hermione!" Ron called, but the only reply he got was the sound of a door slamming. He winced.

"Oh, brilliant, Ron," Harry sighed, coming around the couch to sit beside the boy. Ron crossed his arms and pouted.

"I didn't even say anything!" he protested, looking glum. Harry shrugged.

"Yes, but I expect she's getting tired of waiting, just the same."

"Waiting for what?"

"Waiting for- oh, if you can't figure it out then you don't deserve her!" Ron sighed, and the two boys were quiet for a bit, staring at the fireplace and watching the low flames flicker.

"So tell me about this fight with Malfoy," Ron said after a few minutes, and Harry was quick to indulge.

"I got him good this time!" he exclaimed, eyes brightening as he turned to face Ron. "It was like this…"

& & & &

For whatever reason, there were more people than normal staying at Hogwarts over break this year. Harry figured it was because most parents simply thought that the school was the safest place their children could be at the moment. Hogwarts' Christmas dinner, therefore, was a rather boisterous affair compared to previous years. There was even an unexpected amount of Slytherins staying over break, so Harry had spent much of his dinner glaring at a certain blonde across the hall, surprised that he, in particular, was there because he hadn't seen him at all during the first few days of their vacation.

"Why do you suppose he's even here?" he asked at one point, cutting into a conversation that Hermione and Ginny had been having.

"He, who?" his bushy-haired friend returned, eyebrows furrowing.

"Malfoy, of course."

"Malfoy's here?" Ron broke in, suddenly tuning into the conversation. He cast a quick glance to the Slytherin table, catching the blonde as he sent a mocking wave towards the Gryffindors. "Weird, doesn't he usually go home?"

"Well, he was here second year," Harry reminded him.

"Oh yeah!" Ron chuckled. "The polyjuice thing. That was a trip, wasn't it? I still say Hermione never looked better than she did with that tail." He and Harry shared an amused grin as Hermione huffed and crossed her arms.

"Polyjuice?" Ginny spoke up. "And when was this?"

"Er…it's not important…" said Harry, uncomfortably remembering the unfortunate experiences of the girl's first year. She rolled her eyes, seemingly accepting his answer, and turned to talk to someone else. "Anyway, Malfoy, why do you suppose he stayed?" Ron shrugged, but Hermione's eyebrows shot up.

"Well, where else would he go? Home?" she asked, as if the answer was obvious. She was rewarded with two blank stares. "Oh, for the love of- Don't you read? Don't you pay any attention to anything? Harry, I thought you were reading the papers religiously nowadays. In fact, I'd rather guessed that was part of the reason you two were fighting so much!" The stares were still blank, though Harry was starting to look a bit sheepish.

"Erm, only over the summer, Hermione. When I'm back at school, I guess I figured any important news would spread quickly." Hermione let out a breath in exasperation.

"Well…I guess it was a pretty short article. And it wasn't even on the front page. I think they were trying to keep it quiet, I mean, it's bad enough with Lucius a confirmed Death Eater and out of Azkaban, but-"

"Hermione," Ron cut in. "Get to the point, would you?" Harry took a moment to wonder how they could act as if nothing had happened between them the previous week, and decided he might as well just give up on their hopeless case, before turning his attention back to Hermione.

"Draco's mother is missing," she revealed, voice dropping to a whisper. "He can't go home because the Aurors have the place completely sealed off. They've been searching it for weeks." Ron was starting to look excited about this news, but Harry had stilled in shock.

"Wicked!" his red-haired friend exclaimed. "For how long?"

"Since this summer," Harry replied, still absorbing the news and feeling furious at Malfoy for lying to him.

"No, that's not right," Hermione said, and Harry shot her a confused look. "She's only been missing since…well, since Halloween. But nothing happened on Halloween. I think that's why the Daily Prophet actually kept it quiet, though, so as not to rouse suspicion and make people worry."

"Since Halloween?" Harry repeated, continuing at Hermione's nod. "So that's only about two months…"

"They didn't even report it until mid-November." Hermione gestured with her head in the general vicinity of the Slytherin table. "Bet he was worried out of his mind, not receiving any notes from his mother for nearly half a month."

"How do you know that?" Harry asked. Hermione rolled her eyes.

"Harry, you noticed that, don't you remember?" When he shook his head, the girl sighed and raised her eyes skywards.

"Oh, I remember!" Ron spoke up, catching the attention of the other two. "You started pointing out how Malfoy's owl had stopped showing up. For about a week, actually." The red-head frowned. "Still not sure how you knew which owl was his, really."

"I- well- It used to show up nearly everyday!" Harry spluttered.

"Malfoy was jittery that whole week," Hermione continued, ignoring him. "And then he looked miserable for another week after the news came out. That's when you started fighting with him even more so than usual."

"He starts those fights, you know," said Harry indignantly.

"Really, Harry, you spend quite a bit of your time focusing on Malfoy. It's starting to become a nasty habit of yours."

"Wha- I do not! Tell her I don't…focus on Malfoy too much!" Harry turned to Ron looking for support, but the boy shrugged helplessly.

"You sort of do, mate." He held up his hands defensively when Harry's face hardened. "I hate him as much as you do, I promise! But honestly, I don't even know what you fight about anymore."

"We…I…he…um…" Harry tried to explain, trailing off into confused silence. "It's…difficult to explain."

"Try us," Hermione said, raising an eyebrow. Harry's cheeks slowly reddened.

"Um…but he starts it!" he said desperately. "I swear he does! He just keeps…nagging and I can't take it! He's like…like an annoying little gnat or something!"

"Really now, Potter, surely I'm not that annoying," a drawling voice interrupted, and Harry and Ron turned around in their seats to see Malfoy looming behind them, his two hulking bodyguards absent for once. "And I'm sure I'm damned more attractive than a gnat."

"Who said anything about your looks?" Ron muttered, turning back around and sharing a look with Hermione. "We'd have been referring to a rat or ferret if that was the case." Malfoy opened his mouth to retort, but it snapped shut again when Harry grabbed his robes and threw him off balance as he dragged the blonde down into the seat next to himself.

"What- Potter!" Malfoy cried crossly.

"You lied to me!" Harry shouted angrily, and the Slytherin at least had the decency to blink in confusion.

"Did I now?" he asked, after a slight pause. Hermione and Ron watched in interest.

"You told me your mother wasn't missing!" Hermione gasped slightly, while Draco blinked again.

"Oh," he said flatly. "You're referring to that." He leaned back against the table, legs stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankle, looking for all the world as if he regularly visited with Gryffindors in the Great Hall. "Actually, I was a bit surprised you didn't already know. I guess I figured Ms. Brains over here would have told you, had you not heard it from Dumbledore himself."

"Don't call her that, Mal-! Oh wait…" Ron yelled, and Hermione promptly threw her napkin at him.

"Hold on, you honestly don't have any idea where your mother is?" Harry asked, steering Malfoy's attention away from the antics of his friends and back to himself.

"Not that it's any of your business, Potter, but no, I don't."

"Well then…what if she's still missing by summer? You can't stay at Hogwarts the whole break, can you?" Malfoy slowly drew in a deep breath, eyes narrowing.

"I turn of age in January, I imagine I'll be able survive on my own without mommy and daddy dearest," he said snidely, nose wrinkling.

"Harry, when were you and Malfoy discussing this?" Hermione asked curiously. Harry blushed slightly and started to vehemently deny the thought that he'd been discussing anything with his rival, but the Slytherin intervened.

"It was after our latest fight got us thrown out of Potions," he answered, and Harry glared at him. Smirking, he continued, "Speaking of, we haven't fought in nearly a week, Potter. I know you're missing your bruises, are you up for a tumble any time soon?" Ron snorted and Hermione coughed slightly, while Harry stared incredulously at the boy.

"I think not, Malfoy," he replied slowly. Draco shrugged, but at that moment a shrill voice called to him.

"Draco!" Pansy was shouting, standing at the entrance of the Great Hall, as she'd been making her way out, and staring at her friend in shock. After all, he was sitting with Gryffindors.

"Ah, well, not that I don't love chatting with you all, but I must be off," Malfoy said, standing and brushing down his robes.

"That's right, Malfoy, your girlfriend's calling for you, after all," Harry smirked, and the blonde raised an eyebrow at him.

"Girlfriend? Who have you been talking to?" Malfoy returned the smirk and started to walk away. "Ta, Potter! I'm oh-so-looking forward to our next encounter." Harry watched him saunter out of the Great Hall, arm interlocked with Pansy's, and turned to his two friends.

"They're not going out?"

"Who cares," Ron said, shrugging and finally digging into his dessert again. Hermione shook her head.

"Never went out," she replied. At Harry's surprised look, she went on to say, "They only went to the Yule Ball together. As friends."


"Well, come on then, you two," Hermione said, pushing her plates away and standing up. "We need to get ready for the party."

& & & &

Due to the amount of people who had stayed behind, the D.A. had decided to throw themselves a Christmas party in the Room of Requirement that night. Dobby had taken it upon himself to help decorate, once again, so the room was very cheery. Harry was just thankful there were no decorations dedicated to him again. It ended up being quite fun and continued on late into the night, long after the eggnog and cookies were gone. Harry had mingled the whole time, wandering from group to group and talking to all his peers. He'd caught sight of Ron, Seamus, and even Zacharias Smith at one point, snickering throughout the night, pointing to something that Harry could never really figure out. Eventually, at sometime past eleven, people began filtering out of the room, until just the Gryffindors were left. They all sat chatting around the fireplace for a little while longer, but then Ginny suddenly remembered something and rushed out of the room, Dean following her. Seamus, Neville, Lavender, and Parvati retired right after that, which left Harry, Hermione, and Ron sitting in a comfortable silence.

"Do you think if we just require the room to be clean, it'll pick up everything itself?" Hermione asked eventually, snuggled into her corner of the couch. Ron was sitting next to her, but not too close, and he kept fidgeting with his hands. Harry chuckled.

"It's a nice thought," he said from his position on the floor where he was leaning against another armchair. "But I expect the house elves will probably clean it or something." Hermione 'hmmed' in agreement, looking just a bit guilty about leaving the work for the house elves. Ron sat on his hands, nodding absently. He was flushed slightly, but then Harry cheeks also felt hot, and he figured it was from sitting so close to the fire or something. Of course… The green-eyed boy glanced back and forth between his friends, and eventually smirked. He stood, stretching his arms above his head, and headed towards the door. "Well, I'm beat, I think I'll turn in," he said lightly. "Happy Christmas, you two!"

"Wait- Harry!"

"Stop, no, don't leave yet!"

Harry sighed in exasperation, turning in the open doorway and leaning against the side. "Yes?" he asked, crossing his arms and raising his eyebrows expectantly. His two friends looked sheepish, mouths opening and closing like a couple of fish as they searched for a response.

"Oh, how quaint." Harry frowned as he heard that drawling voice interrupting one of his conversations for the second time that day, and he looked to his side to find Malfoy leaning against the opposite door jam. He vaguely heard a muffled exclamation from inside the room, but ignored it.

"You again?" Harry asked with a sneer. "What do you want now?"

"I was bored," Malfoy shrugged, "and wandering through the castle when I suddenly heard annoyingly loud voices coming from this direction. I saw your dorm mates walking away, and remembered that this is where we caught you lot last year. So I decided to come and make sure you weren't…up to anything." The blonde smirked and crossed his arms, glancing into the room, before his smirk faded a little. "Instead I see you were just having a party that I wasn't invited to."

"Why would we invite you?" Harry asked, eyebrows raised. Malfoy frowned, brow furrowing.

"Was it just you Gryffindors, or were the other Houses here as well?" he asked sharply.

"They were here."

"…I see." Something about his tone made Harry feel uncomfortable and…slightly guilty? The Slytherin was still looking about the room. "Seems like you had fun," he commented, sounding only slightly bitter. Harry suddenly felt the need to explain or defend himself or something.

"Ah…well it- it was just the D.A., really," he stuttered, feeling nervous for no reason he could comprehend. Malfoy didn't respond right away, staring at Harry's friends instead, as they appeared to be whispering urgently to each other. In fact, they'd been awfully quiet since the boy had arrived…

"Is there something wrong with your friends, Potter? I'm assuming you were trying to give them some alone time. So sorry I interrupted," Malfoy said, not sounding sorry at all. Harry finally looked towards his friends, surprised to see their horrified faces.

"Ron, Hermione, what-" He broke off there, noticing that their gazes were directed…directed above…them… Harry swallowed, and at the same time he and Malfoy glanced up.

Right above them, hanging innocently in the doorway, was a single sprig of mistletoe.

Draco burst out into a callous laughter, while Harry's eyes began to widen and his face paled.

"Oh, please!" Malfoy cried, reaching for the mistletoe. "If you honestly expect me to-"

"No, Malfoy, don't!" Harry tried to warn, but the boy was already grabbing at the sprig. He immediately yanked his hand away, yelping and shaking it out, before glaring at the Gryffindors.

"What the fuck was that!" he cried, still shaking his burned hand. Harry swore, hands digging into his hair as he turned to meet Ron's wide-eyed stare.

"R-Ron! Is…is that…?" Ron nodded slowly as Hermione looked on helplessly. "Oh, bloody hell!"

"Seamus and I were commenting on how ironic it was that everyone was walking single-file in and out of the door. I think most people spotted it beforehand," the red-headed boy explained weakly.

"Shit!" Harry exclaimed. "Shit, shit, fuck, wanker, bugger, SHIT!" Hermione giggled and Harry shot her a glare.

"Would someone mind explaining to me just what the hell is going on?" Malfoy asked angrily. Harry ignored him, thrusting his hands out to the side, only to find them blocked from going too far. And the harder he pushed, the more the invisible wall seemed to push back, until his arms were nearly completely bent at the elbow. He quickly stopped shoving, face paling further. He heard a gasp of mixed shock and horror, and looked up to find Malfoy curiously reaching out to see what Harry had been feeling for. "What-what is this!"

"My brothers…" Ron started to explain, but trailed off helplessly, as if that was all the explanation needed. And really, it was.

"Oh, bloody fuck!" Malfoy groaned.

"They sent Harry and Ron an early Christmas present," Hermione explained further. "One of their latest holiday products. It's…you have to kiss the person you're caught under it with. Um, as far as we know, there's no other way out…"

"You might as well do it, Harry," Ron said, trying his best not to sound disgusted. "Knowing Fred and George, there isn't another way out."

"NO!" Harry and Draco shouted at the same time. Malfoy backed himself as far against the doorway as he could, but strangely found himself being pushed forward until his feet were nearly touching Harry's. He glance bewilderedly over his shoulder, startled to find that he was now leaning against…nothing. Or something, rather, but it was invisible, apparently.

"Stop it! Malfoy, stop pushing!" Harry cried, and the blonde relaxed a bit.

"What's it doing?" he asked frantically.

"I don't know! The more you push, the smaller the…the enclosure gets! So just…don't!" The blonde let out a slow breath.

"I feel claustrophobic…" he muttered, eyes wide as he glanced around as if looking for a way out.

"What- Malfoy, you can't even tell we're trapped!"

"I can feel it!" the blonde snapped, and Harry rolled his eyes. The two boys stood quietly for a few minutes, arms crossed in similar postures as they tried to figure out what to do. Then suddenly they felt like they were shoved forward and both flew off balance, landing against each other in a tangle of arms. "What was that?" Malfoy asked quickly, sounding panicked. Harry straightened up, dropping his hold on Malfoy, only to discover that they were now even closer together. When they both leaned against their respective 'wall,' their feet were now next to each other, one of Harry's in between Draco's and vice versa.

"Um, I guess there's a sort of…time limit, as well," Hermione spoke up, though she appeared to be holding back a laugh.

"It's not funny, Hermione!"

"Right, sorry." She immediately schooled her face into a blank expression, but her eyes were dancing in amusement. Harry thought she and Ron looked as if they were watching a movie or something.

"You could try to help, you know," he said petulantly.

"I don't think there's anything we can do, mate," Ron answered.

"Well think of something!" Malfoy demanded. They all quieted down again, though there really wasn't anything they could think of doing. As luck would have, though, they could suddenly hear footsteps and voices coming from down the hall.

"Harry, Ron! Are you guys still in here?" Ginny was calling, and suddenly she turned the corner, followed by-

"Oh, thank God," Harry sighed.

-Fred and George.

"Harry, I forgot to tell you all! These two gits owled today and said they were going to visit tonight for Christmas, since we weren't going home. I found them in the common room showing off their stuff to the first and second years and- Malfoy!" Ginny halted right outside of the room, finally spotting the blonde, and her brothers pulled up behind her. "What are you doing here?"

"Ask the twin prats, why don't you?" Malfoy replied sullenly, crossing his arms and scowling.

"Harry, mate!" Fred cried, slapping the boy on the back before slinging an arm around his shoulder. "How goes it?"

"Horrible," the green-eyed boy replied, before he did a double-take on Fred's arm. "Wait, you can touch me?"

"Should I not be able to?"

"Oy, Fred, look," George interrupted, grinning widely as he pointed up. Ginny gasped and Fred burst out into laughter like Malfoy first had.

"Oh, that's priceless!" he cried, bent at the waist from laughing so hard.

"Fred, George, this is not something to laugh about!" Ron exclaimed, and the twins looked up, finally spotting their brother in the room.

"Ronniekins!" Fred greeted, bounding past Harry into the room.

"This is serious, Fred, stop it!" Ron growled, pushing off his brother's advances. Hermione grinned.

"Hello Fred, George," she said happily. "Maybe you can help us out here."

"'Fraid not," George answered, also stepping past the trapped boys. Harry and Draco shared a confused glance, before they were suddenly shoved closer together again.

"Ahh," Harry said nervously, attempting to slow his breathing and wondering if he should just stop all together. With every breath they took their chests bumped against each other, and Harry was almost positive he could hear the other boy's frantically beating heart. He watched, almost mesmerized, as Draco's cheeks turned a light pink. Fred's voice interrupted his concentration.

"I expect it'll do that one more time," he was saying, "before it stops. 'Course by then you'll be shoved so close together there wouldn't be any room to push you closer anyway." He was rewarded with horrified looks. "Oh, and outside people can walk through the barrier. It's only the two trapped who can't get through it. Gin, come on in!" The red-headed girl shrugged at Harry, and slipped past, taking a seat on the couch next to Ron.

"Would…would you just explain the whole thing?" Harry asked desperately. "Why can't you help us?"

"Because there's only one way out, and I'm pretty sure you know what it is," George answered.

"Well explain the mistletoe, anyway," Hermione said, looking interested.

"Simple, really. We warned you for a reason, you know," said Fred.

"Yeah, obviously you get stuck with the other person, no matter who it is," George added.

"The only way out of the, eh, force field, we'll call it, is to kiss."

"If you wait too long, the 'box' you're in gets smaller and smaller."

"And if you try to resist the barrier too much, it also gets smaller."

"You can't move the mistletoe to try to get out of it, either." Fred and George glanced at each other, before grinning. "Oh, and there's one more thing."

"The longer you wait…" Fred started to say.

"The longer you have to kiss," George finished, and a shocked silence in the room.

"We…but…ah…b-but Ron and Hermione-!"

"No, Harry, remember," Hermione spoke quickly. "Ron and I kissed for…well, for a semi-long time."

"But Seamus-"

"Kissed Dean right away," Ron said. "Didn't put up any fuss at all, did he?"

"Great, I'm trapped with the boy-from-a-house-of-queers," Malfoy muttered. But he looked distinctly uncomfortable, pressed as far against his boundary as he could be without causing it to push back.

"Oh, bugger off, Malfoy," Harry snapped.

"Oh believe me, I'd be glad to, Potter, but in case you haven't noticed," Draco gestured around them, "I can't!"

"Well, as amusing as this is," George cut in, as he stood up and stretched, "I didn't come all this way to watch Harry snog Malfoy, so I think we should really leave them be."

"Right," Fred grinned, also standing. "Besides, at this point they'll be at it for so long, you'd think they were newlyweds." Harry groaned, head falling back against the barrier. Malfoy, if possible, paled even further.

"Sorry, mate," Ron said, following his brothers, "But I really don't want to watch." Ginny and Hermione nodded, giving Harry sympathetic smiles as they slipped past him through the door.

"No, wait, you…you can't just leave me with him!" Harry cried. Draco just looked like he was in pain. Ron shrugged.

"Um…well, don't bother waking me up to tell me about it," he said, smirking lightly. "Somehow I think this will be even less exciting than last year's." With that, the Weasleys and Hermione disappeared down the hall, Harry's wide eyes following them. What followed were even more minutes of uncomfortable silence, before Malfoy sighed heavily.

"Look, Potter-" He was prevented from saying anything else because it was at that moment that the walls decided to do their final shove. Both boys let out a rush of air as their chests slammed together, and Harry braced his arms on the wall behind Malfoy while the blonde's hands landed awkwardly on Harry's hips. Startled, their eyes met and went wide.

Harry felt like he was having trouble breathing, and while he told himself it was because of the pressure against his chest from Malfoy, he wasn't exactly sure if that was the entire truth. It was suddenly unbearably hot in their small enclosure, and Harry's hands unconsciously fell onto Malfoy's shoulders. He'd never been so intimately close to anyone before, and just the feel of another body so close to his own was causing him to react in ways that left him feeling dizzy, hot, and confused. He drew in a shuddering breath, eyes still locked in Malfoy's mercury gaze, and vainly tried to move his hips backwards and out of contact with the other boy's.

Draco was drawing in quick, gasping breaths, his hands tightening on Harry's waist when he felt him try to move away. Not exactly sure what he was doing or what he was even trying to accomplish, he pulled Harry back towards himself, and both boys gasped when their hips ground together. Malfoy moaned, eyes sliding half-closed, and Harry's let his head fall onto the blonde's shoulder.

"Malfoy," he said breathlessly. The boy responded by pushing Harry as well as he could against his half of the wall, and his arms wrapped completely around Harry's waist. The green-eyed boy's head fell back against the wall again, eyes also sliding half-closed. Slowly, almost nervously, he too wrapped his arms completely around Draco's neck, and thrust his hips forward slightly. Malfoy grunted.

"Potter," he returned hoarsely. "What say we get this thing over with?" Harry nodded quickly before he could change his mind and leaned forward to gently meet Draco's lips.

This kiss was drastically different than the one he had shared with Cho a year ago in this exact same spot. For one thing it wasn't wet since Draco wasn't crying, and Harry was immensely grateful for that. The feel of the blonde against him was also different, from the hard, sharp angles of his chest down to the different hardness he could feel pressed against his own. Malfoy's lips were surprisingly soft, though, causing Harry to vaguely wonder if his own were. Then all thoughts flew from his head when Draco gently ran his hands up Harry's sides, and he gasped slightly.

Draco quickly took advantage of that, running his tongue along Harry's bottom lip before slipping it into his mouth and intertwining their tongues. Now, this, Harry was new to. His eyes flew open when he hadn't even realized that they'd been closed, and he groaned, nearly melting into the other boy. Their kiss deepened, mouths clashing together, and Draco's hands were now caressing Harry's jaw.

Harry was the one to break it off, but only because he needed air to breathe, and he and Draco leaned their foreheads against each other, breathing deeply.

Neither noticed the mistletoe falling softly to the floor.

"Breath through your nose," Draco instructed softly, and he felt Harry nod in response. The green-eyed boy reached up and removed his glasses, before clutching his arms around Draco's neck again and leaning in to resume their kissing.

It was more energized the second time around, mouths meeting eagerly and tongues swirling around each other and sucking gently. Draco managed to work his hands up under the shirt Harry was wearing, and was caressing the hot skin he felt there. Harry hooked a leg around Draco's knee in response, trying to pull the other boy as close as possible to himself. The problem with this, however, was that the barrier around them had disappeared when the mistletoe fell. So when Harry tried to lean back, there wasn't anything there to support him. Both boys' eyes shot open, mouths ripping apart as they tumbled to the floor, landing inside the Room of Requirement. They only paused in shock for a few seconds, panting, with Harry's shirt pushed halfway up his chest, before their mouth crashed together again.

Harry was arching up into the blonde above him when it finally hit him that they were free and really didn't need to be kissing anymore. It took a few more seconds for his body to catch up with the hazy thought process of his mind, and Harry stilled before shoving Draco off of him.

"What the-! Oh…right," the Slytherin mumbled. He let out a huge sigh and rested his hands on his stomach, staring up at the ceiling. Harry followed suit with the sigh, absently putting his glasses back on crookedly before tucking his hands behind his head. They remained like this for a few, surprisingly comfortable, minutes of silence. Eventually, Harry pushed himself up off the ground, blushing when he remembered he had to straighten out his shirt. He attempted to smooth out his mussed up hair, but gave up on that pretty quickly, ignoring Draco's piercing stare following his every move.

"Well," Harry said, glancing around anxiously. "Er…Happy Christmas, then, Mal-…Draco? Erm, Malfoy. Happy Christmas, Malfoy." Quickly he began walking out of the room, pausing only slightly when he heard Draco respond.

"Same to you, Potter," the blonde was saying. Harry turned and met his stare briefly, lips quirking up into a slight grin, before he left the room completely.

& & & &

The following days passed slowly and lazily, spent doing homework in their cozy common room or having snowball fights on the Quidditch pitch. Ron, true to his word, had nearly acted as if the whole incident with Malfoy had never evened happened. Hermione, however, seemed determined to drag every detail out of Harry, and Ginny helped. And despite Ron's claims, Harry was sure he'd been listening while pretending not to.

Not that Harry had told them the exact truth of what had happened. In fact, he'd pretty much made up an entire story about how the whole thing had nearly turned into another fight between the two boys. He'd added claims about his tongue nearly being bit off, while he was sure he'd split Malfoy's bottom lip with the harshness of their kiss. It was all very elaborate, told without being able to look into his friends eyes and there was a constant blush on his cheeks.

That was perhaps the reason that Hermione had eyed him doubtfully throughout the whole thing.

Harry hadn't spoken to Malfoy at all since that night. They'd seen each other at mealtimes, but were blatantly ignoring each other. Even when they happened to pass in the halls, they didn't even look twice at the other boy. Harry was beginning to wonder if they'd ever even fight again. Then he wondered how he'd be able to hold down any reactions if they did fight, because he was nearly certain he wouldn't be able to handle that slim body on top of his again, rolling around and…

He promptly blushed, ignoring Ron's questioning glance. It was New Year's Eve, so they were once again enjoying a celebratory feast in the Great Hall. For lack of other things to do, the D.A. was once again holding another party in the Room of Requirement that night. Harry had checked every inch of the room to make sure there was no mistletoe hanging about. Once satisfied, he began mingling again.

It was probably nearing 11:30 when Harry began to get bored. He'd retired to one of the couches, nursing a butterbeer, and feeling oddly glum. Glancing around the room, he noticed the different cliques of friends. For the most part, it was Ravenclaws huddled with Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs giggling with Hufflepuffs, and Gryffindors talking with-

Oh. That's what it was.

Harry glanced around the room again, and once he was sure that no one was paying attention to him, he slipped out the door into the slightly cooler corridor. He felt like he needed to- no…he wanted to do something, but it required a quick detour first. Practically jogging down the hall, Harry made his way to Gryffindor tower quickly, grabbed the Marauder's Map, and headed back out into the hall. He'd hoped that his target was somewhere he'd actually be able to get to, so he was relieved to find Draco Malfoy's name wandering around the Astronomy Tower.

By the time Harry had climbed the numerous staircases, checking every so often to make sure Malfoy hadn't left, he nearly positive it was almost midnight. Panting from rushing so much, he leaned against the wall outside of the room Malfoy was in, trying to catch his breath. Slowly, he squared his shoulders, knocked gently against the slightly open door, and peered into the room.

"Malfoy?" he called softly, looking around the darkened room. There were a few lit candles hanging in the air, casting a soft glow on the room. Harry spotted the Slytherin sitting at one of the open windows, cheeks red from the cold wind brushing against them. He glanced up, looking slightly surprised to see anyone there.

"Potter?" he asked, almost warily, "What are you doing here?" Harry didn't really have an answer to that, so he hovered awkwardly in the doorway instead, shoving the Marauder's Map into one of his pockets.

"I…well, I got bored," the Gryffindor replied.

"You, bored?" Malfoy raised an eyebrow, sounding incredulous. "I didn't think it was possible for you to get bored, surrounded by your numerous friends as you normally are. Don't tell me your precious D.A. wasn't having some sort of party tonight," he continued sarcastically. Harry flushed.

"Actually they were, that's where I just came fro-," He stopped quickly, when Malfoy's face darkened. Apparently he hadn't actually known there was a party going on. "Uh…I mean…well, they were… But…but I left, because I was bored… And-and I came looking for you instead."

"You mean you didn't just stumble upon me accidentally?" the blonde asked darkly.

"No!" Harry insisted. "I…well, I guess I wanted to…to see if you wanted to come. To the party. I…you can bring Pansy…or someone else, uh, Zabini? Blaise? Is that his name?" He trailed off helplessly, watching as an amused smirk appeared on Malfoy's face.

"Blaise went home for the holidays, and Pansy wouldn't step foot in a room filled with Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs, even if you paid her to," he said, still amused. "You don't honestly expect me to believe that you want me to join your friends at that party, do you?"


"You're allowed to come into the room, you know, I don't own it," Malfoy said lightly, turning back to look at the snow-covered grounds. More snow had fallen since dinner, so there was an untouched blanket of white glistening under the moonlight. Harry stepped warily up to the blonde, leaning against the window beside him. They stared into the night in silence for a few minutes, and Harry reveled in just being able to relax in peace for once, though it felt strange that he could be like this with Malfoy of all people.

"I don't understand you this year, Malfoy," he said eventually, glancing at the blonde out of the corner of his eye. Malfoy raised an eyebrow.

"And you understood me in previous years?"

"Yes. Well, no, maybe not, but I understood where you stood with me. I knew how you would act around me, I knew how I would act around you… It was a constant thing in my life, something I could actually rely on, something I knew would never change, though maybe that's not exactly how I thought about it at the time." Harry paused, before continuing in a rush. "You were there before Voldemort, before Ron and Hermione, before Sirius and Dumbledore and Remus. You were the second person I met from the wizarding world and if you hadn't reminded me painfully of my cousin, maybe things would have been different…but the fact is they weren't. And yet somehow you wormed your way into my life and made yourself an important part of it. You're a right prat, don't get me wrong," he said lightly, finally turning to face the other boy only to find that Draco'd been staring at him the whole time. "But somehow I knew you would always be around, being your stupid prat self. Sirius…Sirius died, Remus I don't get to see much, and Dumbledore I barely even trust anymore. Hagrid's still gone with the gi-…well, Hagrid's gone." Harry sighed.

"Touching, Potter, really, but-"

"Shut up, I'm not done," Harry snapped, He took a deep before continuing again. "And then this year…I don't know what happened, or maybe it's because your father was…gone, all summer, but you changed. I already had Ron and Hermione acting weird around me because of Sirius, not to mention they keep spending more and more time together though they can't admit they like each other, and when they finally do I'll really become the third wheel… I wasn't expecting you to change how you acted around me too, and that threw me for a loop. And the fights…well, the fights I actually enjoyed, but it's just not the same!" The Gryffindor looked desperately at his attentive audience. "You don't hate me anymore! You haven't called Hermione a Mudblood in ages, you really just tease me now, more than anything, and I don't understand where it's coming from!" Draco stared at Harry impassively for a minute before turning to look out the window.

"I don't know what you want me to say," he said at length, quietly.

"Just tell me why!" Harry demanded. Draco sighed, fingers clenching around the window seal, turning his knuckles white.

"There's nothing to say! I do still hate you, I don't know where you got that-"

"No you don't!"

"Look, Potter, if I say I hate you, then I do!" Malfoy growled, facing the boy again.

"No," Harry shook his head stubbornly. "I know you don't."

"FINE!" Draco burst out, chest heaving. "Fine! What do you want to hear? Do you want me to tell you that I never really hated you? That I was just…angry the whole time! I hated that you chose Weasley over me! I hated that you became friends with stupid muggleborns like Granger, and that you went off gallivanting about through your little adventures, never once giving me the time of day! I was never good enough for you! No matter what I did, you wouldn't look at me with anything other than that…that loathing look, like I was a bug you only wanted to step on so I would finally be out of your way. In everything, Quidditch, friends, classes, family even, you always had to make it known that what you had was better than what I had." Malfoy paused here, still breathing heavily while Harry watched, wide-eyed. "I hated that part of you, that part that never, even from day one, took the time to find out if there was more to me than what you assumed there was. I hated that no matter what I did, you would always consider me beneath you." He looked away, before saying softly, "I never hated you."

Harry was speechless. He took a few minutes to gather up his scattered thoughts, trying to form a coherent response. "Malfoy…you…well what was I supposed to think!" he finally cried, drawing the other boy's eyes back to meet his. "You certainly never attempted to show me that there was…more to you! First year you turned us into McGonagall, second year there was the whole Heir of Slytherin thing, third year you tried to get Hagrid sacked, fourth year you made up all sorts of ridiculous stories about me, and should I even get started on all the crap you pulled last year? And that's not even half of all the shit you've done!" Draco frowned, crossing his arms.

"And you expect me to believe that you considered me important, after all that?" he asked flatly.

"Yes!" Harry said exasperatedly. "Because I knew you'd always be like that! I knew you wouldn't suddenly declare your love for me or something! You were the one constant thing in my life that I could count on not changing. …Even if you were an annoying constant." Draco smirked.

"I was a bit of a brat, wasn't I?"

"Yes," Harry answered, smiling slightly. "See, and then there's this year, and this right now," he gestured between the two of them, "and I don't know what's going on anymore."

"Well…I was pissed at you for getting my father thrown in jail," Draco started to explain. "When he escaped…I don't know what I was expecting. I guess I half thought he'd come home and things would continue as they normally had." Here he let out a humorless laugh. "Yeah, right. So now he's been in hiding for nearly five months, and my mother's also missing, and somewhere along the line I realized that…that I didn't want to live like that." He glanced at Harry, eyes narrowing. "I'm not stupid, you know. I'm second in our class, right behind Granger-"

"You're tied with Terry Boot, actually, according to Hermione." Draco shot him a glare, and he blinked, grinning. "Sorry, continue." Draco sighed.

"Well, tied or whatever, I'm still second. I'm smart. The Dark Lord's a hypocritical psychopath…did you know he's a half-blood himself?" At Harry's nod, he continued. "I have plans for after school. I want to have a job, a place of my own, a wi-…a family… You can't have that when you're a Death Eater. I'd be living in a gutter somewhere, trying to make sure no one would ever find me. Who wants to live in hiding? And…the whole muggleborn thing…I still think they're a danger to our kind, and I don't think they should be admitted to our world, but I'm not about to go out and kill them all. Fact is, the wizarding world is getting smaller and smaller, and people like Granger are, as much as I hate to admit, a necessity for our kind to keep going."

"When did you realize that?" Harry asked curiously.

"Second year, really, when my father was berating me for letting her have higher scores than I did and I realized that she was actually just good at what she was doing. Not that I didn't absolutely hate her even more for that, mind you."

"That long, huh?"

"Yeah." There was another silence, interrupted by the sounds of cheers coming from around the castle. Far off in the distance, the sky lit up periodically with what Harry guessed were fireworks.

"I guess that's the turn of the New Year," Harry commented, laughing a little. Draco 'hmmed' in agreement.

"So, any resolutions for yourself this year, Potter?" he asked.

"Nothing specific," Harry answered. "I guess things will really be different from now on, though. I don't know if I'll be able to fight with you anymore."

"Whoa now, Potter, I never said I was switching sides or joining the Order or anything of that nonsense. And we're certainly not going to be friends, by any means.

"Right, Malfoy," Harry replied, chuckling. But then what the Slytherin had said caught up with him. "Wait, how do you know about the Order!" he asked, shocked. Draco blinked, cheeks going pink.

"Oh…well, I might have…um…already discussed things with Dumbledore." At Harry's stare he added, "A while ago, actually." Harry continued to stare. "Back in October, now that I think about it. Of course, I talked to Professor Snape first." Now Harry's jaw dropped open.

"And no one thought to tell me this?" he cried. Draco shrugged.

"I guess not," he replied innocently. Harry sighed in exasperation.

"Malfoy, can we start over?" he asked, and the blonde looked at him in confusion.

"How do you mean?"

Harry thrust his hand forward, looking into Draco's eyes.

"Hello, my name's Harry Potter," he said easily. Draco blinked, eying him warily and glancing down at his hand. Images flashed through his head, old memories of meeting this small, scared looking boy in Madam Malkin's robe shop, of the sheer hurt he'd felt when his hand had been rejected, of years of jealousy and anger and longing for something that he still didn't quite understand. He was so tempted to walk out right then, just so Potter would know how it felt. But…

Slowly, he reached out and took the other boy's hand, gripping it warmly and tightly in his own.

"Draco Malfoy," he said slowly, smiling slightly. "Pleasure to meet you." Harry grinned, pumping his hand up and down.

"I think you and I will get along just fine…Draco." The blonde burst out laughing, and Harry was almost positive it was the first time he'd ever heard the warm, cheerful sound. It sent shivers down his spine.

"Oh boy, does that sound weird…" Draco said, grinning. It made his entire face light up, and Harry could only stare at him in awe. "…Harry."

"I like you calling me that," Harry said softly, still in awe. Draco's grin softened.

"I like calling you that," he replied, and before Harry could say anything, Draco had cupped his face in his hands and was pulling him forward. Their lips met softly at first, before Harry took the initiative and pulled Draco deeper into the kiss, wrapping his arms around the slim boy's waist as their tongues wrapped around each other.

Around them, people cheered and partied the New Year in, but Harry and Draco were oblivious to their celebrating, too busy exploring each other instead.

--The End!--

Aaaand that's last year's Christmas fic:)