"I am a lone lorn creetur...and everythink goes contrairy with me."

--Dickens, David Copperfield

Draco Malfoy had mosquito bites.

So he scratched.

A he scratched.

And when the itching finally stopped, the itching began again.

So he scratched again.

Mosquitoes were quite inclined to help themselves to his body. Though this was not at all surprising, for he was himself, that fact did not alter the other fact that he hated these ugly marks and he hated the insects that left them behind.

Why would nature invent such beasts? They buzzed and poked and spread disease and, most importantly, irritated him. He swore that when he was named Minister of Magic or Ruler of the Universe (whichever came first) he would ban the existence of all mosquitoes and all things equally as creepy and crawly. In the meantime he would consult Father on the matter. Surely he would be ablo something about it.

Draco scratched the red bump on his elbow, staring darkly at it.

Why couldn't they find a group of Gryffindors to chew on? Oh, that's right...because everyone loved Gryffindors--including fecking mosquitoes.

If Gryffindors didn't want to be eaten alive by mosquitoes, the mosquitoes would say okay, precious ones, we'll just go find that ruddy Malfoy boy.

Gryffindors always got what Gryffindors wanted because they were Gryffindors. That was the entire reason Draco was here, in the middle of God-only-knew-where, with a gaggle of fellow seventh years. The Gryffindors had suggested going camping for their class trip and, while the Slytherins had suggested a cruise into the wizarding colony within the Bermuda Triangle, Dumbledore found camping be a simply marvelous idea.

Draco was not going to miss out on his seventh-year trip because that. He was a Slytherin, and Slytherins were not walked on or pushed about. No, sir.

So here they were. And here he was, still scratching himself into a red, swollen, infected sack of sorrow...for he had no companions to keep him company.

The tents, to his thorough dismay, were set up according to gender rather than house. With the girls' campsite across the lake, he was stuck for now without as much as Pansy or Millicent to keep him from boredom. Pansy, though, might have forced him to sit while she braided his hair again. He shuddered. Those pink bows were horrendous. Almost as horrendous as--fuck everything! He had found another bug bite on the back of his neck!

He might have sent his two cronies to the nearby Muggleto fetch him some ointment; however, Crabbe and Goyle had succeeded in proving their incompetence even before the seventh years departed from Hogwarts.

"Why are you packing, Draco?" Goyle had asked.

"The class trip is today, idiot."

"...There's a class trip?"

"Don't tell me you didn't sign up for the camping trip."

"Were we supposed to?" Crabbe dropped pastry crumbs down his front as he chimed in.

"Why would I have signed up if I didn't expect to drag you along?"

Crabbe shrugged.

"I told you specifically to go sign your name on the list."

"You didn't say go find a dame and get pissed?"

Draco had yelled.

Draco had screamed.

But the fact remained--oh, what nasty things facts were--that Draco had signed up for the camping trip and Crabbe and Goyle had not. And he itched. And he was stuck in a wood without cronies, without cooing Pansy, and without--

"Potter!"

The boy in reference jumped, spilling water, or something certainly similar, down his front.

"You've emptied your little pail out all over my priceless suede duffel bag!"

"Why would you bring a priceless suede duffel bag on a camping tr--?"

"Please. You clearly have no sense of anything."

"Clearly," Potter mumbled. Weasley made his inevitable appearance, taking the pail from Potter.

"Did you trip him, Malfoy?"

"Potter is capable of doing that on his own."

"Keep away from us," said Weasley, pointing a freckly finger at him as Potter attempted to jiggle the water off his shirt.

"You're the ones standing over my sleeping area. Run along." He shooed them with a wave of his hand.

Weasley shook his head and wandered in the direction of where Draco supposed the well (or fountain for all he knew) was located. Potter looked at Draco, water dripping off one of his bare arms. He wore a sleeveless shirt and Draco was pleased to see that he had apparent tan lines where his short sleeves normally ended. Ha.

Glancing away, he planned to forget Potter existed. A fresh mosquito bite taunted him ("Look at me! I itch!"), so he picked at it. Mother would have scolded him for that, but Mother wasn't the one being mauled. Draco's nose scrunched as the bite began to bleed.

"Malfoy?"

Hadn't he left? "What do you want, Potter?"

"Are you sick?"

Draco eyed him with a frown. "What are you getting at?"

"You have lumps."

"They're called bug bites. I guess you wouldn't know that because your skin is probably too gritty and sour for the bugs to enjoy."

Potter shrugged his shoulders, pulling the damp, gray shirt from where it stuck to his stomach; it flopped back. He brushed a dirty-looking hand through his dirty-looking hair, leaving a dirty-looking trail of dust there and, being content to displeasure Draco, plopped onto his arse next to Draco's Squishy Cushion.

"Don't touch my Squishy Cushion."

"I'm not touching your dumb pillow."

"Squishy Cushion."

"Fine, Malfoy."

"What do you want?"

"Are you--er--feeling well?"

"Don't act nice with me."

"I'm not acting, Malfoy." Potter scooted closer, leaning over the duffel bag near Draco's Cushion, squinting at him. He'd never noticed what an unnerving shade of green Potter's eyes were. They were like bugs. They were like big, horrifyingly green bugs! He had to put a stop to this.

"What, may I ask, are you doing?"

"There's something on your ear," said Potter.

"Wha--" Buzz buzz. "Fucking mosquitoes!"

Draco leapt up and over Potter, shaking his head and slapping his face, surely making a fool of himself, in attempt to rid his body of the invader. They were everywhere: crawling up and down his arms, in his hair, humming about his ears, rummaging in his underpants, sucking away every drop of his pure blood! They were in on Dumbledore's plan--they had to be--for no one in their right mind would harass Draco Malfoy without good reason. Dumbledore did this. Dumbledore and those Gryffindors and Crabbe and Goyle--and Potter--did this to him! Everyone was trying to kill him!

"Malfoy, stop it!" Smack! "Malfoy!" Smack!

"Get them off me!"

"MALFOY!"

Then there was silence.

Potter was above him. He noted that Potter's hands felt as dirty as they looked while they held his own hands above his head. What the hell was Potter doing touching him?

"Potter, get off."

"Are you okay?"

"Get--off--now."

He clambered off Draco, nearly kneeing him in the groin in the process, and looked down at him.

Potter seemed...well, Potter seemed like a boy. His hair, noticeably more unkempt than usual, still housed the dirt streak, and bits of filth fell from it when he moved his head. Slowly, Potter's hand reached up and curled into a ball, wiping his eyes; he sniffled. Draco wondered if he had allergies. Potter's legs were hairy--too hairy, in fact, for his liking. If Draco had a razor with him--unhappily, he did not have much facial hair--he would have donated it to the poor sod.

Draco glowered from his seat on the ground. "Famous Harry Potter's too good to give me a hand up?"

"Er..." Potter pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, which looked to be rather sweaty, and thrust a hand downward at him.

Draco brought himself to his feet, ignoring the hand still hanging in the air. Turning to march away, he listened to Potter say, "I think I have some cream for those lumps back at my tent."

Cream. Cream for his...lumps. Lump cream.

Those were the most beautiful words he had heard throughout the whole miserable day. Cream of Lumps: the very phrase made him shiver. The offer was tempting--but no. He was Draco Malfoy.

"Don't stick your nose into my business, dolt," he said, and left Potter with a lovely expression of indignation. It was satisfying, really. But he still itched, damn it.

"...Stir with a thick-tipped rod at medium speed while simultaneously adding the powderedreally, this reference is ages old, Draco. My updated version states that a shredded Gintleaf would be more appropriate than--are you even listening to me, boy?"

"Yes, sir...a...sliced Weed of--"

"We already went over that--"

"Do you think this is infected?" said Draco, sticking his palm under Professor Snape's nose.

"For crying out loud! Do I look like a physician?"

Draco did not know what Professor Snape looked like, but, no, he did not particularly look like a physician. Henot think any sort of physician wore flannel pajamas and fuzzy green slippers.

"They're warm," Snape had said. "And I don't appreciate you commenting on my sleeping attire when I very well could have left you in a tent with the Gryffindor brats."

And he very well could have.

Draco had spent the evening persuading Snape, their reluctant chaperone, to allow him to stay in his tent as to spare him from having to bunk up with some less likable persons. The rules, which had to have been thought up by Dumbledore, required each student to stay with at least one other student (of the same sex) during the night, and, as Draco was the only Slytherin boy of his year to attend, no others there were good enough. Snape had been miffed to give up his personal space to "a whiney little rodent," so he had decided to keep Draco from worthlessness and had since been reciting from Potions books.

"You'll never master complex potions, Draco, if you don't at least know the standard forms of these herbs. I suggest you listen."

Draco nodded and sat up, curling one leg under himself and un-socking his free foot.

His big toe was much more interesting than Potions. It was bigger than any normal big toe at the moment because it had a--well...he did not want to call it a mosquito bite, for the title was probably the curse itself! Potter was right; it was a lump. A lump that oozed out clear-ish goop. Perhaps he should have gone to the Mudblood to find whether she knew of any antidote.

No, perhaps not.

He heard Snape droning ("...Can be used with or without poppy seeds...") and tapping his foot on something near the entrance to the tent. Why Dumbledore forbade gic unless during emergency, Draco did not know. Even if he did know, it would annoy him no less and this tent would still be only large enough to fit in just a couple people. It was unimaginably uncomfortable.

He noticed a new lump on his foot just below his middle toe.

Pick, pick, pick.

"...Whether the mixture can be solidified..."

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

"...Draco."

Pick, pick, pick, gouge.

"Mr. Malfoy! That's revolting!"

"Sorry," Draco mumbled.

He laid himself onto the flat, hard earth, which he could feel through the lining of the tent. As he shifted in his sleeping pouch, or whatever it was called, his jumper became dreadfully twisted around his torso, squeezing and chafing his already irritated skin. He sighed and climbed out.

"Are you sure you don't have a remedy for this?" He thrust his foot under Snape's nose. Snape made a disgusted noise in his throat. Draco wondered if that was what a moose sounded like.

"I'm sure--for the thousandth time--that I haven't any potion of any sort for your silly itch. Bear it."

"But it itches, Professor."

"I know."

"It's ruining my skin!"

"You've told me."

"It's irritating!"

"Then it is apparent that the bloody thing has something in common with you! Now quit complaining, you nasal-voiced pest!"

Pick, pick, pick.

...Now what on Earth had crawled into his fat, stinking--?

"Malfoy!"

"What is it?"

"Stop--picking--your--skin;

Arse hole.

Draco's stick was yanked from the fire.

"What'd you do that for?" he snarled.

"You don't know a thing about roasting marshmallows, Malfoy," Potter said, handing it back. "You're supposed to pull it out of the fire before it falls off the stick."

"Well, you're sitting tooe to me. I have no room to move--"

"I remember you choosing to sit here--"

"Potter, just go somewhere else."

"You came out here on your own, Malfoy," Seamus Finnigan reminded him. "Don't ruin it for the rest of us."

Finnigan grinned a stupid grin. Draco glared.

He had managed to squeeze himself into the snug circle of boys, who sat about the fire, and it was misery sitting here in the bug infested outdoors with Potter and the others.

But here he was. And here they were, cooking little, soft sugar-morsels on sticks.

"Your elbow is practically lodged between my ribs!" He flailed his arms and legs at Potter.

"It's the only space I have, so stop fidgeting."

Draco gave him a most frightening stare to which Potter replied by tossing a new marshmallow at his face. Ignoring the chuckles of his peers, Draco displayed his superiority by catching it before it touched the ground. How's that for Seeker, Potty? Of course, his satisfaction did not last long, for Potter's arm continued to brush against another lump on his side (in a manner that Draco did not believe was accidental), causing it to tingle. Draco did not want to lift his jumper to scratch it because he feared the giant swarm of mosquitoes who stalked him would fly up it.

He sat on his log amidst the murmurs of a few Hufflepuffs and the smell of Potter's burning marshmallow. As he watched it cook, he was reminded of the time, as a child, he had set his white gerbil aflame. Heh.

"It's hot out here," said Draco.

"Jump in the lake."

Weasley would be the type suggest something as grotesque as going into that foul water.

"First of all, Weasel, just because your family can't afford a proper lavatory doesn't mean the rest of us like to bathe outdoors."

Weasley started to growl something about fists and blonds before Potter interrupted. "And the second of all?" Draco only raised an eyebrow. "You said 'first of all'. I'm assuming there's a second reason why you won't swim in the lake."

Draco picked his skin.

"It's just," Potter blathered. "We're all going for a nude swim later--"

Potter was much less interesting than the spouting, throbbing lump on his wrist.

"--because the Weasley twins say it's tradition for the seventh-year boys to go for a midnight dip in the lake at Hogwarts--"

If he kept scratching so much, he would end up having scars. He hoped no mosquitoes bit his face.

"--But since we're already here, we figured we'd go have some fun."

Draco looked up and said, "What could be fun about swimming around in a filthy lake with a bunch of naked boys?" Potter just smiled. "You'd better not be insinuating what I think you're insinuating."

"What am I insinuating?"

"...I don't know..."

Potter smiled wider.

"Malfoy, come on. We'll go back to my tent and fetch it."

"No. I don't want your ointment."

"Lump Cream."

"It doesn't matter."

"Just make a decision already."

"Stop pressuring me!"

Potter shook his head, rubbing his hands together in the cold.

Why had Draco come out here? He could be warm as toast with Snape and his slippers in his sleeping pouch. On the other hand, Snape snored like a really big animal, but that was better than standing undressed on a dock with Harry Potter, whose eyes wondered downward a little too casually for his liking.

"Potter," he said. "I'm tired and in pain...I'll just go to bed."

"You have mosquito bites, not a broken leg."

Draco glared with all his might at Potter. Potter stood with his hands on his hips.

"The others," Potter pointed out, "are halfway across the lake. I'm going."

"Wait! You can't leave me here."

"The campsite is right up the trail."

"It's dark...and I don't like forests." Draco suddenly had a flashback to the horrifying incident in his first year at Hogwarts, which involved Potter and a float-y monster thing.

yle"text-indent: 0.00mm; text-align: left; line-height: 4.166667mm; color: Black; background-color: White; " "You're scared of the dark?"

"No."

Potter smiled. Draco did not like that stupid smile.

"Well then, Malfoy, you're either stuck here on the dock all night"--he fell onto his knees and tested the water--"or you're coming with me." And he slipped headfirst into the murk.

Nature was silent around Draco until a frog, or cricket, or something, chirped nearby. Potter's head bobbed in and out of the water, making the faintest of sounds; it ventured farther from the dock. Wind rolled past, rustling throughout a group of bushes to his right. A twig snapped in the distance; there must have been animals near the edges of the forest. From behind, he was sure he could here the buzz...the buzz of a thousand, angry, fed bugs waiting on the banks to rip his skin--with a scrench! and weck!--from his body.

"POTTER!" he shrieked, and flew into the water.

"Po--" He went under and came up again. "Pot--" He kicked as fiercely as he could. The feel of the lake was outrageous. For once, the prickling of his skin was not itching, but iciness. It shot along his spine, nearly anchoring him, playing along his muscles and nerves. He jerked in search of a way out. When he opened his eyes he saw nothing but black and felt nothing but the slimy lake-bottom plants wrapping up and around his ankles. He nearly inhaled water as a force grabbed him by his hair and wrenched him to the surface.

"Malfoy!"

That water had tasted like urine! Heed to cough it all up.

"Malfoy, can you hear me?"

"Yes," he groaned. There was not energy left in him to insult Potter for shouting into his ear.

Potter's hands wound around his upper arms while he treaded to keep the both of them above water. "Are you--" He almost seemed worried. "Are you okay?"

Draco nodded. It was pretty infuriating: Potter was the kind and courageous wizard even to his enemy.

"Then let's go. We won't catch up the others if we don't hurry."

"Potter," he said, before the other could pull away.

"What?"

"I..."

"What is it?" he whispered, which made Draco twist his face in confusion as Potter moved closer to him.

"...I can't swim."

"What?" Potter's brow went upward.

"Don't ask me to repeat it."

"Oh."

"Were you expecting something?" A thank you? A hug?

"No, no." Potter looked away and started to swim.

"Wait!" Draco grabbed his wrist and Potter spun around. He could hardly see the other boy under the poor light of the moon and sopping hair before his eyes, though he could make out, because of a lack of reflection, that Potter did not wear his glasses. "I said I can't swim."

t color"Black" "Oh! Er...here."

Now wasn't this humiliating? Potter had wrapped his arms around Draco's chest and initiated a backward swim. Keeping his head above water was difficult while Potter tugged him along. The bumbles and jolts reminded him of the mini "choo-choos" Father had let him ride at a carnival once. They chug-a-lugged along. Potter, the train; and Draco, the stowaway.

He managed to maneuver himself upward so that his head could lean against Potter's shoulder. Potter panted into his ear.

"You don't...feel...as light as you look."

"Flattered." Draco reclined further, letting Potter have more of his weight.

"Malfoy...you," he gasped, "--you could help...me."

"Ah, the Boy Who Lived can't swim a little swim?" Draco lifted his hand from the cold, thin water and watched it drizzle from his fingers back down.

"You could," Potter spat, wheezing, "you could kick, at least."

"Oh, I don't think I'm up to it. Surely you, a big, strong hero can manage."

"It would be easier to--the others...already at...shore. Don't hear them swimming any longer."

"Speak up, Potter, you're mumbling."

He grunted, clearly out of words.

"Wait," Draco said suddenly. "Why are we going across the entire lake? This was supposed to be a dip."

"First of all, I'm the only one...swimming here." He took a deep breath. "Second, the others decided to scare the girls."

"I could be warm and relaxed right now."

"You seem comfortable enough to me."

Draco smirked. Taking the opportunity, he went limp, resting his hands in the wavy path they made; Potter did not object, excepting his screech of frustration.

When they reached shore, Potter all but fainted atop him. Draco, who was positively exhausted, was not a happy camper being smashed into the dirt.

"Off," Draco said.

"Mff."

"Off!"

Potter rolled onto his back next to him.

Were he not frustrated and sleepy, Draco might have smacked the mosquito his inner-elbow. Idly, he wondered what in the world his inner-elbow was called, but passed up that thought because soon he would not have an inner-elbow, for the pest seemed content to suck it to death. He didn't think he needed one of those, anyway.

Splash, splash.

What on earth was that?

Splash, splash.

Oh, lovely...the sounds of Potter. By the shore. Cleaning off his genitals.

"Potter!"

"Mm?"

"What are you doing?"

"Isn't it obvious?"

"It's nauseating. Stop fondling yourself."

It was dark, but Draco was sure he had rolled his eyes. "While you were having your little catnap, I attempted--attempted, mind--to climb a tree," said Potter.

"What are you talking about?"

"I was trying to see how far ahead the others were. It didn't exactly work out."

"You're an absolute fool. How does that justify you washing your...self?"

"I...er...was caught on some bark." Potter gestured downward.

Draco cringed. "You didn't have to be so specific."

"You asked."

Splash, splash.

Plop!

Splash, splash.

"We're lost," said Draco, "and you're puttering about in the water--still.;

"Nothing better to do."

"Go search for a trail."

"Why don't you? You've been on your arse, doing nothing--"

"I don't understand why you won't bring us back to the dock."

"Because, Malfoy, it's too dark to see the dock. We'd be lost in the middle of the lake."

"We've been here for yearsPotter."

"Stop whining."

"I'm cold."

"Shut up."

"I can't! I itch."

"Then bathe."

"I'm not getting in that nasty watth you."

"Then shut up."

"Don't touch me there!"

"Malfoy, I wouldn't be touching you if you weren't standing so close to me."

"But you're warm." Splash, splash.

"Don't splash me." Potter pinched his side raco stopped himself from squeaking just in time.

"Fine."

Draco dog-paddled as well as he could to a spot away from Potter, which was considerably more cool and frightening without someone with him. Not that he would ever let Potter know that. Draco also did not wish to admit that Potter had been right; they could not possibly swim back to the dock. During the first swim, they had the noises of the other boys to guide them. Now, all was silent but for his and Potter's bickering and splashing.

Lying on his back, he let the lake carry him. He swayed with the tides the breeze made, looking up at gray clouds barely visible on their black background. He turned his head enough to see Potter, who waded here and there. A beam of moonlight reflected off the water and onto Potter's slick, wet lower half. He was pleased to see yet more unattractive tan lines, which were shaped as if Potter had been sunbathing in his briefs.

Astonishingly, when Draco kicked his legs, he was propelled.

"Potter," he called, several feet away, struggling to make the final few feet.

"Mm?"

"You really need to tan your arse."

"Oh. Well, at least I know you find it worth your inspection," he said in a smiley tone.

"Don't get any ideas. How could I not notice its blinding glow?"

Potter shrugged his shoulders and started toward the shore. "Let's go. Swimming around isn't going to help us."

"Neither is getting lost in the forest."

"Better to be lost in a forest than to catch cold and rot in a lake."

"We're going the wrong way."

"No, I'm sure the girls' site is this way."

"We can't go to the girls' site, Potter."

"Why not? It's closer."

"We're naked!"

"I don't want to them to see us like this any more than you do, but what other choice do we have?"

"Are you dense? We could go back to our site."

"The lake is quite long, Malfoy. We'd have to walk all the way around it, and that'd take hours.uot;

"Then we'll take hours."

"Mal--"

"Ouch!"

"Are you alight?" There was Potter's concerned voice again.

"I'm fine, Pot--don't you dare help me up!"

"Fine. Sit and bleed."

"I think one of my mosquito bites split open."

"You know, Potter, I meant to trip on that root."

"Sure you did."

"Don't smile at me."

"All right, all right. I think," said Potter, rubbing his head, "we should be going that way."

"Why?"

"Because that's the way to go."

"But the lake starts to curve right there. We could just follow it back."

"There're piles of rocks in the way. Our feet would be cut up."

Draco sighed. "Just lead the way, hero."

"Come on--"

"Don't touch me!"

Potter sighed, mumbled something, and met Draco's eyes again before starting to hike.

"Hey, why are you going so fast?"

"I'm just tired of being naked," Potter said.

He leapt onto a stump only to leap off again, looked back to make sure Draco was nearby, and sped off once more.

"I'm not quick on the ground," Draco called.

"And you're not very quick in the air, are you?" He could make out the puffing of Potter's cheeks, which indicated that blasted smile.

"Ha, ha."

"And your tongue is lagging as well."

"Shut up."

"Now, you're the one telling me to shut up. I believe I recall--"

Shut--up."

He did shut up.

Potter had been giving orders all night. It was about time he listened to what Draco said. Why, he'd even had the nerve to stick his fingers into his ears and hum when Draco was recounting his mosquito bite woes. The nerve of some people.

"You've lost us!"

"No, I haven't."

"Just admit it, Potter. You're not perfect."

"I've never claimed to be. You're the only one to make that assumption."

"Well, you--ouch!"

"Christ, Malfoy. Who knew you were this clumsy?"

"I'm not wearing shoes," he moaned. "The ground is grabbing my toes." Draco shambled onto his feet, brushing back his hair, and exhaled sharply. "Let's get on with this."

"No, wait!"

style"text-indent: 0.00mm; text-align: left; line-height: 4.166667mm; color: Black; background-color: White; " Draco looked at his hand. It was now between Potter's rough, jagged-nailed hands. Their fingers clashed horribly, Draco's thin and white, and Potter's wide and brown. He nearly commented, but looking up, he saw that Potter eyed him strangely and had red in his cheeks.

"Well, are you going to speak?" Draco demanded.

"Er...I forgot what I was going to say."

Draco wrenched his hand from him and marched away, calling for Potter to hurry his tail up.

"Would you stop scratching? It's annoying."

"I can't help it!"

"You might've taken the Lump Cream I offered you this afternoon."

"I don't want your ointment, Potter." Draco walked faster.

He heard Potter call after him that it wasn't ointment, it was cream.

Potter was an idiot.

"Are you sure you know where you're taking me?"

"Trust me." Potter patted his shoulder.

He had successfully taken Draco across a lake, had offered a remedy when Draco itched, and had shown concern when Draco tripped--but what was in this for Potter?

"Don't be a prat," Draco said. "Everyone knows not to trust someone who tells you to trust them."

"I haven't led you astray so far."

Draco shrugged in reply.

"And I wouldn't deliberately harm you."

"I guess not. Too noble for that, are you?"

"Maybe I've grown fond of you."

"Over a day?" asked Draco flatly.

"Over seven years."

"You're a nutter."

"So, Malfoy," said Potter. They had been heading over stacks of fallen trees and through bushes for a very long time. Potter held up a branch, letting Draco pass. He had been doing that often, moving things out of Draco's path, and while it was perfectly fine in Draco's books, he could not help harbor the suspicion that one of these times Potter would let one snap back into his face. One with lots of bacteria and insects and other things that would leave him with a rash.

"What?" Draco replied.

"Why were you so frightened about going to the girls' camp?"

"I am not frightened of a bunch of prissy-pants girls."

"Then why did you insist on going the long way back to civilization? After all, we could be to their campsite by now."

"None of your business."

"Don't want your girlfriend to see your bits?"

"I don't have a girlfriend, and for you information--"

"Not Pansy Parkinson?"

"Of course not."

Potter didn't say anything more.

"Why do you ask about Pansy? You don't...?"

Potter snorted. "I don't like her."

"I suppose Granger keeps you satisfied enough, then."

"Why would you say that?"

"Well, it's hard to believe that you've been close friends with a girl for such a long time and have never wanted anything more from the relationship."

"The same could be said about you and Pansy."

Draco frowned. Potter had a point. "Yes, yes, but Pansy and I aren't as tightly knit as you and Granger. Surely, all those valiant adventures left some sort of special attachments between you?"

Potter walked faster.

"No bonding by the fire, discussing feelings with blankets and cocoa?"

Potter's s turned red.

"No sexual tension during those long hours alone in a romantic nook at the library?"

Potter tripped on a branch.

"Not one consoling chat after an embarrassing Potions class--?"

"Malfoy, I don't want her."

Draco's stomach turned over. Not because of what Potter had said, but because of the way Potter leered at him just then: one swipe down Draco's body with those odd eyes, then one swipe back from his toes to his face. That definitely was not expected. Suddenly feeling much nuder than befoco moved his hands to cover his...bits. "Y-you...you're a liar, Potter."

"I don't understand, Malfoy."

Draco only just realized they had stopped walking and that Potter was staring at him with his arms folded across his chest. He noted that Potter had three or four dark hairs there already. Bastard. Though, they might have been flecks of dirt.

"Of course you want that...that frizzy-haired Mudblood."

"You really shouldn't talk about my friends that way."

Draco turned up his nose. "And why is that?"&quo/font

"Because," said Potter, taking a step toward Draco, "you're alone in the woods...with someone bigger than you are."

"I could take you on." Draco emphasized the sentence by poking Potter on his chest. Yes, they were definitely chest hairs. Bastard.

"I'm sure you could." Draco felt his face flush as Potter advanced on him. He pressed himself against the tree behind him. "But before anything happened, you'd back away...much like now."

Straightening himself to his full height, Draco lifted himself onto his toes, standing eye to eye to Potter. He was not going to allow Potter to be the victor. He would show Potter just how strong he was. He would show Potter who would back away, who would be the coward. He would simply clench his fists, furrow his eyebrow, and thin his lips. That was intimidating enough.

Potter took another step toward him, bringing the space between them to a few inches.

Draco gasped and squeezed his eyes shut. This was it. This was his doom. Potter would squeeze him into jelly, smear him all over his underpants, and then tell everyone he creamed himself to death. Gryffindors were such barbarians!

His fingers curled around Draco's upper arms and he pulled Draco toward him, crunching the space between them to nothing. The brush of Draco's body against those few chest hairs and the sickening smack of Potter's dry lips on the corner of his mouth was enough to make him--blink in horror.

Potter was right. Draco did back away. In fact, he fled at top Seeker speed into the brush.

"So, when can we get together again?" Potter mocked.

Draco walked.

"Are you going to speak to me?"

Draco shook his head.

"Are you going to look at me?"

He shot him a glare, lip twitching.

"There's the Malfoy I know and love!"

He put a few feet in between them.

He suddenly felt very awake, not to mention embarrassed. He also had an urge to ask for Potter's body warmth as he had briefly given him in the lake, though Potter's kiss made him far too uncomfortable to mention such a thing.

Daylight peeked between the cracks and slits of leaves, not warming him much, but making it possible to see each and every bug in his path. He flicked them away. Having nothing else to distract him, Draco merely scratched the lumps on his stomach.

He did not how long they had been walking. Considering the blue-orange sky, it had been quite a while. Mostly, he either ignored Potter or grunted at him for the journey. However, now he was curious to know where the hell Potter was leading him. He hoped it wasn't into a ditch or a cave where Potter would molest him again.

"Malfoy, stop!" Potter whispered, reaching a hand toward Draco's arm. Draco flinched away before they made contact. "Look."

Shelter, food, and clothes--they were so close! A long table, which seated the Hogwarts seventh-year boys, was between the tents and them. He nearly blessed Potter aloud; a few more steps and Draco would have been modeling himself for everyone.

Potter grinned and moved his mouth to Draco's ear. "I hadn't even noticed the sun had come up."

Draco folded his arms,ng repeatedly from Potter to the table of boys. "What's your point?"

"Well...you were by my side. And you light up any night."

Draco snorted loudly. "That was the most ridiculous nonsense I've ever--"

"Shush! Not so loud, Malfoy!"

It was too late.

"What's in the bushes?"

"Is it a monster?"

"Maybe Harry's come back!"

Potter and Draco took one look at each other, and dashed for the tents through murmurs, shocked faces, and whooping noises.

"Ugh! This is disgraceful, Potter."

"You didn't have to follow me into my tent. And they're the oy clothes I've got, so deal with it."

"Your socks have holes."

"I know."

"Your pants have stains."

"I know."

"Your shirts are hippo-sized."

"Yeah, I know."

Draco sniffed, and wriggled his way into Potter's dastardly excuses for clothes, making sure to stay out of Potter's line of sight until he finished. Really, didn't his parents leave him with any money? How did he afford to pay for school supplies and racing brooms if he couldn't even clothe himself properly?

"You're worse off than Weasley."

"Shut up and get dressed."

"What if I don't?"

Potter pulled on the rest of his shirt, and turned to him. "Would you like another kiss?"

Draco fled the tent.

Hoots and whistles surrounding, he made his way with Potter toward the breakfast table.

"Way to go, Harry!"

"Did you finally stick it to him, mate?"

Stick it to him? What the hell was he, an envelope? And what the hell were they going on about?

"I beg your pardon, you imbeciles," Draco said. "The day Potter sticks anything on or in me will be the last day he breathes!"

No one seemed to hear him. They were all busy thumping Potter's back and ruffling his unflattering mop of hair. He tried again.

"Excuse me, you--"

"How long did he last, Harry, old boy?" called that Mudblood, Dean Thomas.

"No, no, how long did you last, Harry?" Weasel guffawed.

Draco was flabbergasted! How dare they? Sure, Potter had not harmed him or snubbed him, but Draco would never give in if Potter made a pass at him--and he hadn't!

He had spent a miserable night in a lake, wandering through a wood, putting up with a Gryffindor and his chapped lips, itching--and bloody Harry Potter was awarded a shining, fucking, medal emblazoning I shagged Draco Malfoy. If he had his wand--

But he didn't have his wand.

He sat and eyed Potter, who was continuously patted and praised.

"Malfoy--"

"Don't speak to me."

"Malfoy--"

"You grinned."

Potter appeared guilty.

"All you did was grin, Potter. You didn't deny a thing. You sat, like a buffoon, grinning from ear to ear that stupid grin of yours, and you said nothing. You let them think that you and I"

"Just stop--"

"Stop what? Stop telling the truth?"

"Stop complaining."

"Stop complaining when there are things that I very well have a right to complain about?"

"No! Just--" Potter stood suddenly. "...You've always been difficult."

"PerChange the subject to me."

Draco noticed that Potter fingered something deep within his pocket, though he ignored it because it was likely a sappy love poem, or a piece of jewelry, or a Chocolate Cupid, or some other vomit-worthy item of fondness. He looked nervous, as though he were contemplating a life-altering decision. It was almost humiliating for him to watch Potter handle himself that way. That wasn't the posture of a hero, damn it; it was the posture of a teenaged boy. Though, hadn't he always berated Potter for being too much a hero?

"Malfoy?"

Draco turned his back to him and did not speak.

"I...can we...?"

Clearly, Potter did not feel that this situation was worth more than stammering.

"If I could...well..."

So, Draco concluded, he simply would not listen to him any longer.

Draco felt a twinge of irritation on his neck. Smacking a hand onto his skin, he brought it forward and curled his upper lip. A smashed mosquito lay half-dead, twitching on his palm.

"Ugh."

"Malfoy?"

"Are you still talking?" Draco sneered, still not turning to face Potter.

Potter let out a huge sigh. Or was it a yawn? Either way, Draco found it maddening and told him to go away, in which case Potter did nothing but shuffle his feet in the dirt.

Shuffle, shuffle.

Draco shoved his hands into his pockets. He discovered that lint was an extraordinary thing whilst in the middle of an uncomfortable situation. He passed each chunk of fuzz between his thumb and index finger and he did not think of Potter or the fact that these were his trousers or the fact that some nervous sensation fluttered in his stomach. No, sir, he did not.

Shuffle, shuffle.

He settled on looking down at the lake at the bottom of the hill. The boys all gathered, pushing two-person rowboats into the water, which reminded him of those they rode in the first day of Hogwarts. Draco wondered how long his schoolmates had known Potter liked boys, how long they had known Potter liked him, and whether they really believed Potter had shagged him. Maybe they were just out to give Draco a hard time.

But how could he, Draco, not have known?

Down on the banks was nearly every boy he had schooled with for seven years. How was it possible that he had been unaware of such a rumor? How could he have been the only one? Hogwarts, as many knew, was a magnificent rumor mill. So, why was he in the dark when the others were not? Perhaps they, too, were part of Dumbledore's great conspiracy against him.

Or perhaps it hadn't been a rumor, but a secret.

Perhaps Potter trusted all those boys, and they deserved his trust, and had long ago given Potter reason to trust them.

He rubbed the lump on his wrist. It sat atop two crisscrossing veins. Draco's veins had always stood out hideously on his skin. Pansy made fun of him for it when they were children. She, along with Crabbe and Goyle, he realized, had been the only three he'd ever given the time of day.

Were they alone worth it? Or was Potter worth it as well?

For Potter, the one whom Draco had given most of his attention all these years, had finally showed him what he had shown everyone else: heed.

&quoy?"

Draco did not acknowledge him.

"If you want to join me by the lake...there's one boat left."

Draco wrinkled his nose; the consideration never failed.

He heard Potter clink something onto the table, and then air fluttered his baggy shirt as Potter moved past and made toward the bottom of the hill.

Though he didn't want to admit it, he was appreciative of Potter inviting him to "have a dip" with everyone else the night before. He appreciated Potter's effort to drag him, no matter how gracelessly, across the lake and heeciated Potter offering to let him stand closely to his body for warmth in the water, even though Draco suspected Potter had peed in it to keep it that way. He also appreciated Potter leading him on the trail and Potter saving him from more humiliation by giving him a set of musty rags to wear.

Potter had found him worthwhile. That heed came into play again. That concern.

A sap! That was what he was thinking like. Potter had not meant anything, surely. It was just...it was just...

He sighed.

Would Potter have done those things for anyone? Or only for Draco because of his thing, for him? Probably the former. A short swim, a moment of warmth, a guide orest, and single kiss between them did not mean that he gave any sort of damn about Draco's well being. He did not give a damn of Draco's worry, or struggle, or grief, or ease.

From the bottom of the hill, Potter stared up at him expectantly. Even from afar, those stupid green eyes seemed like big, ugly bugs. That reminded him--he itched. Potter's bugs morphed into mosquitoes and those mosquitoes morphed into giant, Hagrid-sized mosquitoes that hovered above his head, licking their lips, rubbing their palms together. They readied themselves to swoop in for the kill.

Potter was a bastard whose eyes strayed to Draco solely to make him itch.

Potter didn't care. Potter didn't notice.

So, he turned around and plopped himself down on the bench, arms resting on the table.

And he suddenly was panged with relief.

Glistening at him, on the dirty wooden table, was a small bottle labeled Itching Ointment.

Heed.

"Cream of Lumps, indeed, Potter."

Draco smiled.