A/N: My first fan fic! It is only fitting that it be Harry/Draco as this is my favorite pairing ever! Hope you enjoy, and please review!
A/N #2: Written without beta. All successes and failures are mine and mine alone.
Note: Setting is 6th year. Follows canon through OOTP. Not HBP or DH compatible. Could be seen as OOC, though I prefer to think not. :-)
Warning: Slash to follow. Some guys like guys, cause that's my world. Don't read it if you don't wanna read it.
Disclaimer: All characters and locales are based on and/or inspired by the works of J.K. Rowling. I do not own any of the above. But you already knew that. No profit or remuneration is sought or earned in this venture, only idle amusement. I thank you.
MOMENTS OF CLARITY
Harry Potter sighed.
Of all the places to be stuck on a beautiful September afternoon, here he was: stranded for two hours in double Potions. With the Slytherins, of course. Not to mention Snape. He had thought that he was going to get out of it this year; his potions score on O.W.L. had only been an "E," which normally wouldn't have qualified him. But after the insistence of both McGonagall and Dumbledore, and given the growing threat of Voldemort, Snape had been forced to admit students with lower marks—even if they didn't want to take the class. Harry sighed again.
"Today, you will be brewing a Draught of Clarity," Snape said. "Who—other than Miss Granger—can tell me the effects of this potion?" Hermione defiantly held her hand high, ignoring his remark. No one else seemed willing to volunteer.
"Very well," Snape said. "Miss Granger?"
Hermione didn't miss a beat. "The Draught of Clarity will bring the drinker a state of mental tranquility, much like deep meditation. In this state, it is possible to remember things long forgotten, or to make discoveries or connections that might otherwise be elusive. It cannot provide the drinker with new knowledge, only with the means to explore existing knowledge in a new, more accurate light. In other words," (here she stopped sounding like a talking book) "it clears your mind."
Snape glared at her as if her thorough explanation were a personal affront, but gave a brusque nod of confirmation. Then he spun around, waved his wand, and the directions for the potion appeared on the blackboard. His verbal instructions were equally terse: "Begin."
Harry pulled out his potion book and started studying the finer points of the procedure, while beside him, Ron started mashing up pixie wings. They worked together in relative silence for several minutes—although Ron was doing most of the work, as Harry just couldn't get his heart into it at the moment, and kept daydreaming about being… well, anyplace but here.
Beside him, Ron burst into a fit of hacking coughs as a pungent cloud of violet smoke erupted from their shared cauldron.
"Little help here, Harry?"
Harry picked up his potions book and fanned the air over the cauldron, blowing the smoke out of their faces and across the room. He winced as he noticed Snape bearing down on them through the dissipating cloud, a distinctive scowl on his face. Upon reaching their table, the greasy-haired potions master stole a quick glance at the contents of the cauldron, then met Harry's eyes with a nasty glare.
"What's this, Mr. Potter?"
Harry provided a sarcastic smile. "I believe it's a Draught of Clarity, Professor. Or I should say, the start of one." Snape narrowed his eyes but said nothing, and Harry added: "According to the textbook, that cloud of purple smoke means that the infusion of salamander skin was successful."
"I know what the smoke means, Mr. Potter," Snape spat. "But I am curious how the two of you—who are possessed of unparalleled ineptitude—have managed to be the first pairing to achieve a successful infusion of salamander skin on this occasion."
Harry returned his glare. "I guess we just had a moment of clarity, Professor." Beside him, Ron snorted a laugh.
Harry knew that he had probably crossed the line, and braced himself for Snape's punishment, but to Harry's surprise and relief, it never came. Instead, Snape merely narrowed his eyes even further, and he turned on his heel without another word and headed for Neville Longbottom's table, where he would be sure to have more success with his derisive bullying.
Harry and Ron exchanged a quick glance, then turned to face Hermione, who looked surprised and impressed, and mouthed: "Well done," just before her own cauldron erupted into a haze of violet smoke as well. Beside her, Draco Malfoy went into a fit of coughs even worse than Ron's had been.
"Glass of water, Malfoy?" Ron asked with mock politeness. In return, he received a contemptuous sneer from Malfoy, but its effect was totally ruined by the uncontrollable coughing that still seized the Slytherin boy. Harry had to look away to keep himself from bursting into laughter, and even Hermione wore a slight smirk as she fanned away the fumes.
When he had finally stopped coughing, Malfoy muttered, "Bloody potion," his face beet red.
Harry smiled privately. Perhaps the afternoon wasn't a complete loss.
As they sat down at the Gryffindor table in the great hall for dinner that evening, Hermione smiled broadly and said, "Isn't it just great to be back? How exciting to be taking N.E.W.T. level classes this year!"
Harry and Ron shared a glance, clearly thinking along the same lines.
"Well, I'm excited, anyway," Hermione said defensively. "And our first day went really well. Even Potions." She turned to Harry with a serious look and said, "I'm quite impressed, you know, Harry. How on earth did you manage to brew the Draught of Clarity so quickly? It's a really complex potion!" Harry thought he detected just the slightest hint of resentment in her tone, but he decided to ignore it.
"And what makes you think that Harry did it?" Ron asked before Harry could reply.
Hermione blinked, and turned to Ron. "Well, I—"
"I really didn't do anything," Harry said truthfully, interrupting before Hermione could say anything she might regret. "Whatever happened, it's Ron that pulled it off. I was barely paying attention at all." Hermione looked stunned.
"Really?" she said, trying to cover up her surprise. "That's wonderful, Ron!" After noticing Ron's skeptical expression, she added: "Well, if you're going to be showing me up in potions, perhaps I'd better start studying with you and catch up." She smiled, and Ron blushed. Harry rolled his eyes. Not this again.
With a loud and pointed cough, Harry said, "So… Quidditch tryouts this weekend. Ron, you're still going to play keeper, right?"
"We'll see," Ron said, looking depressed. "Last year was a bloody disaster, wasn't it?"
"Oh, Ron," said Hermione. "You know you're a great keeper. Look at what happened the last game. You were amazing!"
"You would know," Ron replied bitterly. Hermione seemed to shrink.
"We told you why we weren't there, Ron," she said sheepishly. "Hagrid—"
"Yeah," said Ron. "Well, that was my only decent game. What about the rest of the season? I couldn't block the quaffle to save my life. The team would have been better off without me."
"Oh, for Merlin's sake, Ron," said Harry. "I thought we'd got past all this."
"Yeah, well… I guess not." Ron looked down at his plate dejectedly. The threesome sat in awkward silence for a few moments.
"You know, if you guys don't mind… I'd like to be alone a bit," Ron said, standing. He turned and walked away, and Harry and Hermione exchanged surprised glances.
"What the hell?" Harry asked.
Hermione sighed. "Oh, this is just silly," she said, standing and drawing her wand. Pointing it at Ron's retreating back as he made his way through the large double doors to the entrance hall, she said, "Affer laetitium," and made a flick of the wrist. But Ron kept walking, undeterred, shoving past Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, who were just entering the great hall.
Hermione made an indistinct noise and quickly hid her wand in her robes.
"I missed," she hissed.
"Apparently," said Harry, amused. "Guess you'll have to think of something else besides a cheering charm this time."
"Yes, well…" She gathered up her bags and made to leave. "I'm going to go talk to him. Coming?"
"We've only just started eating," Harry protested.
"I don't think you'll have anything to worry about. We'll be back here in no time, as soon as Ron decides that hunger is more pressing than self-pity."
"You're right," said Harry, standing to join her. "I give him fifteen minutes."
Fortunately, Hermione was right. The two of them found Ron, cheered him up (Harry suspected that Hermione might have slipped a cheering charm in there somewhere), and coaxed him back down to the great hall in time for dessert. By the time they had each eaten three helpings of pudding, things had returned to normal.
Afterwards, Hermione suggested that they all go to the library to work on homework. Much to Harry's surprise, Ron agreed. This mystery was quickly solved, however, when Harry caught the look in Ron's eye as he listened to Hermione. The prospect of sitting through another evening of awkward almost-flirtation did not appeal to Harry, and he begged off, saying (truthfully) that he thought he'd get more work done in the common room. Thus parting ways with his friends, Harry headed back to Gryffindor tower.
The common room was comparatively quiet, probably because of the absence of Fred and George Weasley this year. A few students were scattered around the room, mostly playing games of chess or exploding snap. Harry, however, being a sixth year student, and taking N.E.W.T.-level classes, had more pressing things on his mind; even though it was only the first day back, he already had mountains of homework. He flopped into an armchair and ran his fingers through his mess of hair, trying to decide what he should work on first.
In the end, he settled on writing an essay for Transfiguration, exploring the ethical concerns of botched or unresolved animal transfigurations. Strangely enough, he found the topic marginally interesting, and had made a good start into the body of the essay before he was interrupted by a pair of irritating, eager voices.
Harry looked up. "Hi, Colin. Hi, Dennis," he replied unenthusiastically.
"Want to see Colin's pictures from our holiday in Italy?" Dennis asked. "He's got some great pictures of American muggles in the funniest clothes, and of course we had to see the leaning tower, since Pergini the Pompous used it as his observatory, but the best thing was—"
"Oh! Dennis," Colin said, "tell him about that Medici mansion in Florence where the ghoulish uprising took place in 1539, and how they think it's still haunted, since—"
"Oh yeah! That was the coolest! But don't forget the Roman catacombs, where the great dark lord Carnius buried his victims alive, and they went crazy keeping themselves alive with magic… Here, Harry, you've just got to see these!" Dennis said, holding out a photo album.
Harry had to think quickly. "Actually… I was just thinking I needed to go see Professor Snape about my potions essay," he lied. At the word "Snape," both Creevey brothers' eyes went wide.
"Oh, Snape," said Colin, looking fearful. "Well, I guess we can show you the photos later…"
"Yeah," Dennis agreed. "We'll… just go show them to Neville first. See you later, Harry."
As they crossed the common room to where Neville was studying, Harry felt a slight pang of guilt, but he just wasn't in the mood for his two most enthusiastic fans at the moment. He packed up his things and, in keeping with his excuse, headed out into the hall as if he intended to go to Snape's office.
Of course, he had no such intention and, once out of the Gryffindor common room, he decided to just wander the halls and stretch his legs for a bit, rather than join Ron and Hermione in the library. He found that he had limited patience for their quasi-flirtation, since he'd been dealing with it for several weeks already at the Burrow.
As Harry turned down a lesser-used corridor on the fourth floor, he nearly collided with someone walking in the opposite direction.
"Sorry," he said automatically, and then registered who it was. "Oh, it's you, Malfoy."
"Potter," Malfoy replied. To Harry's surprise, the expected snide remark never came; instead, Malfoy just stood there, looking at Harry with a curious, detached expression that was uncannily reminiscent of Luna Lovegood. They stood facing each other in silence for several moments.
Finally, feeling awkward at the prolonged eye contact, Harry cleared his throat and said: "Well, are you just going to stand there staring at me all night, or are you going to let me pass?"
Harry's voice seemed to wake Malfoy from his daze, although he still wore the same imperturbable expression. "Question, Potter."
Harry blinked. "What?"
"What's your favorite color?"
"What? What are you on about, Malfoy?"
"Just tell me, Potter."
"I don't know. Silver?"
"Ooh, really? Good answer."
"Why is that—"
"You know, I've just discovered that my favorite color is green."
"Well, imagine that," Harry said. "One of the Slytherin colors."
Malfoy tilted his head thoughtfully. "Yeah, that too."
Harry blinked again. "Right…" he said slowly.
"Funny, Potter," Malfoy added with a smile. "Silver is a Slytherin color as well."
"Yeah, well…" Harry frowned. "That's not the reason."
"That's good," Malfoy said. "It'd be a shame to think you'd been sorted into the wrong house, after all." Harry felt a blush rise in his cheeks; Malfoy had touched on a sensitive point.
"Is there a reason we're talking about this?" Harry asked impatiently. "Or is this just your newest idea of how to bother me?"
Malfoy shrugged. "Just curious."
Harry opened his mouth to reply, but found that he didn't know what to say.
"Lose your train of thought, Potter?"
"Happens. Especially when you've got too much on your mind." He chuckled as if he'd said something funny.
"Er… I guess so."
"It's true," Malfoy said, looking thoughtful. "I suppose you must have a lot on your mind."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, if I were you, I think I'd be worried about the Dark Lord's plans for me."
Harry bristled. "Is that meant to be a threat, Malfoy?"
"Just an observation."
"Well, for your information, I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
"Good," Harry said, feeling a bit off-center at Malfoy's uncharacteristically… civil behavior. The latter simply stood before him, wearing an odd, satisfied expression. Harry stared. He had never realized that Malfoy could look so… pleasant. In fact—
He recoiled at the thought. Pleasant? Malfoy?? He'd almost forgotten who he was dealing with: the son of a Death Eater and a pureblood fanatic… Harry recovered his wits, and said: "You know what? I don't even know why I'm talking to you. You're nothing but a Death Eater wannabe—or maybe you are one already. Tell me, Malfoy, if I were to look at your left arm, what would I see?"
Malfoy paused for a moment, meeting Harry's eyes with an unreadable expression. Then he flashed a malevolent grin.
"Was this what you wanted to see, Potter?" he said, ripping back his sleeve. Harry let out an involuntary gasp as Malfoy turned up his left forearm to Harry's view, revealing… an unmarked and flawless stretch of pale skin. Malfoy laughed.
"Priceless, Potter. You really thought I had the Dark Mark, didn't you?" Harry just swallowed nervously.
"Although…" Malfoy continued. "You probably shouldn't count on all of your enemies having conspicuous tattoos."
"And was that meant to be a threat?"
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Do you really think I want to kill you, Potter?"
"Sooner or later, you're going to learn the difference between rivals and real enemies. If I wanted to kill you, I would have done it a long time ago." Harry found himself once again without words, and Malfoy resumed staring at him with the same detached Luna-smile.
"You know," said Malfoy, sounding thoughtful, "I used to think silver was my favorite color, too. But I've changed my mind." Harry shook his head, sure that he'd misheard.
"What the hell, Malfoy? We're back on this again?"
"I guess I have a one-track mind."
"Colors?" Harry asked, incredulous. "What are you, four?"
"No. But I am finding it hard to think about anything else, for the moment."
"Then what on earth are you talking about?"
Malfoy smirked. "Hmm… I don't think you'd believe me if I told you."
"Well, I wouldn't have believed me myself, until about five minutes ago."
Harry sighed in exasperation. "This is getting ridiculous."
"Is it? Then I suppose I'd better go, before one of us says something we'd regret." With this, Malfoy gave an odd sort of half-smile, and then walked past Harry and headed down the corridor. With a final little laugh, he turned the corner and disappeared, leaving Harry standing utterly bewildered and staring stupidly down the empty hall.
And... that's it for Chapter 1! I know there's a lot of exposition/setup, but what's a first chapter for?
Reviews! Please and thank you. :-)