29th December

Mid-morning Draco was still flushed with success, holding his wand as if it might escape him if he let go and casting wildly. The few Slytherins left over Christmas had wisely scarpered, leaving Draco to stand on a sofa and turn all the mistletoe purple. He caught sight of himself in the big mirror above the fireplace and almost gasped. Draco's eyes were glittering oddly, like grey jewels, his face even paler than usual but for two hot spots of pink on his cheeks. His hair was sticking up and stuck to his skin, which was gleaming with sweat. He looked...

"Crazy," said an acerbic voice from a portrait of an austere looking woman in a dark purple dress. "You look very odd, Mr Malfoy. It's the result of all this magical exertion and high emotion – not that high emotion is exactly foreign to you. You need to calm down. Do something restful. Talk to someone interesting, I doubt you could relax at the moment."

"Calm down! Do something restful! I can't concentrate on anything but magic, I couldn't if I tried. You don't know what it's like!" Draco felt almost drunk on the power running through his veins – though this was largely because he was wallowing in it. The faint tingle of recognition a wizard felt each time he picked up his wand and performed magic had been amped up into the thrill of reunion.

The scrape of stone on stone sounded loud to his sensitised ears, and Draco turned to see Harry standing outside the opened wall looking smug.

Draco jumped off the sofa. "How did you do that?"

Harry smirked, entering. "Parseltongue. I can still speak it, and your common room opens to it."

"Huh." Draco was rather jealous, but he wouldn't have admitted it for worlds.

"You want to come back to Gryffindor? Hermione wants to take a look at Rover. She says I never showed her how fascinating he is." Harry's flat tone showed what he thought of this. Granger instantly went up in Draco's estimation. Anyone who understood that Rover was fascinating couldn't be all bad. Still...

"She won't damage him at all, will she?" he asked suspiciously. Harry smiled at him.

"Hermione's always careful."

"Will you give me my present?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "Far be it from me to stand between a Malfoy and material goods."

Draco nodded solemnly. "Braver men that you have balked at that. Though – there aren't many men braver than you, I suppose."

Harry beamed.

Draco kept a sharp eye on Granger for the first few minutes she spent with Rover, wanting to be sure no harm would come to his dragon.She was very gentle with him, and Rover seemed to like her – he sent a tiny flame towards her, which appeared to be his way of saying hello. Draco relaxed.

Granger looked at him a few times too. She looked – not angry, Draco didn't really know what it was. He noticed Granger nudge her boyfriend, and mutter something. Weasley looked up then and said, "oi, Malfoy... fancy a game of chess?"

Instantly the other Gryffindors burst into groans and laughing comments that seemed split between wondering what world this was, where Ron wanted to play with Malfoy, and warning Draco against playing against this chess fiend. Draco's competitive side immediately flared up – he was going to leave Weasley in the dust.

He pretended he hadn't seen the nudge. If he'd noticed it, he'd have to get annoyed and refuse to take pity, and it was surprisingly nice here, really; the warmth and susurrus ofvoices a million miles from Slytherin's chill. Even if everything was distressingly red, Draco liked sitting here, curled in what was nowhis armchair, watching Granger stroke his dragon while Harry talked to the others.

He stood up. "You're on, Weasley. Let's go."

He hoped Harry was watching. He was going to beat Weasley cold.


"Nooo!" Draco fell onto back, clutching melodramatically at his hair and moaning. The Gryffindors laughed, watching his paroxysms of horror. "Oh, I can't believe I lost to him, I'll never recover, I'll wither away..."

"It never occurred to me before," Hermione said thoughtfully, "but maybe his incessant nastiness is partly because he's such a hysterical little drama queen."

Draco gave her an indignant look, but didn't interrupt his theatrical moans. Weasley was grinning and seemed to be enjoying Draco's pain immensely. "Losing to a Weasley, oh my poor mother, the shame alone will kill us both..."

"Would a present help?"

Draco instantly sat up and gave Harry a bright smile. "Presents alwayshelp!"

Harry passed him something he'd apparently had stowed by him on the sofa. Draco saw to his pleasure that the present was wrapped in bright blue wrapping paper, with little penguins throwing snowballs at each other. He saw a little penguin get it in the neck and smirked, then tore into his parcel with all the finesse of Attila the Hun.

"Gloves?" Draco grinned slightly mockingly. "What are you, Potter, my mother?"

Harry blushed, then seemed to regain his usual fire. "You're the one who complained about being cold yesterday, Malfoy, and you don't have Quidditch gloves. I'm only trying to protect the poor, wimpy little Slytherin."

"OI!" Draco yelled. "You take that back!"

"Or what?"Harry looked horribly, terribly smug. There could be only one response.

He gave a war cry and leapt. Harry shouted in response – more in shock than fury – as Draco landed on him, raining mock blows on his head. Harry fought back, but only by flapping his hands pathetically at Draco's mid-section.

"I'll show you who's a wimp!" Draco yelled. "Lions, ha – you're a bunch of kittens!"

"Oh, you're going down now, Malfoy!" Harry grabbed Draco round the waist and shoved forward. Draco felt a moment of shocking adrenaline as he fell backwards... then he landed solidly on the rug, Harry on top of him.

Draco could hear the others laughing and egging them on. He squirmed under Harry, the two of them hitting out dramatically. Harry felt like he was everywhere, the whole world made of bony knees and nudging thighs and soft hair getting in his mouth and hands and hot breath panting against his neck and...

"Hey!" he spluttered. Harry had grabbed his wrists, and was now holding them down and grinning in victory, green eyes alight with triumph.

"I win!"

"Yeah, yeah," he muttered. "Get off."

Harry did, then stood up, linking his hands above his head and yelling his victory while the other Gryffindors cheered him. Draco gave a half-grin, then grabbed his gloves and sat by Granger to check on his dragon.

"I'll win next time, Harry. Count on it."