Disclaimer: There is no way any of these characters belong to me. I'm not smart enough to come up with a story as detailed and awesome as Madame Rowling's. *sad face*

Title: Hero

Beta: ManhattanWitch my dearest 'if-it's-not-a-Drarry-then-find-another-beta' sister.

Authours Note: Hey- slightly important note about the characters- anyone who died in any of the Seven Books is still dead in here- that goes for everyone except Dumbledore. I needed to pick on him. But yes- Sevvie is still dead, as is Fred and everyone else. Sorry.

And this is all ya'll's Christmas Present- I figure all the other authours will post on Christmas Day, so I plan to beat the rush and post early. ^_^

Summary: When you're the Boy-Who-Lived and you defeat Voldemort before your Seventh Year, without a doubt people will try to control you. Drarry-slash, in a pre-slashy kind of way. HPDM.

The winter wind was sharp and cold, carrying the promise of snow to whoever was listening. The lake was frozen solid- more than sturdy enough to hold up under the rigours of the game of ice hockey that Seamus and Dean had instituted. This was the last weekend before Christmas Holiday, and the two Gryffindor's had organized all but the youngest of the Muggleborn witches and wizards in Hogwarts for this game- excluding Hermione, of course, who was studying.

It was- quite simply- chaos.

Supposedly there were two teams, and the object of the game was to get the puck into the nets at either end. But there all semblance of rationality ended.

It was a free for all, to put it bluntly, and Harry loved it. It was exhilarating. To fly over the smooth ice as though nothing could hold him back was as intoxicating as jumping from the Astronomy Tower onto his Firebolt. He didn't care who was supposedly on his team- he fought for himself, and counted all comers as opposition. Already a Ravenclaw had conceded defeat and left the field, clutching his scarf to his nose to stopper the bleeding.

Harry swerved past Dean, who was one of the goalies, and flicked the puck into the net with ease. He let his momentum carry him around from behind the net, darting back into the fray with no more thought to his safety than dueling Voldemort had ever conjured. And once again, he let himself be swept away by the pure, physical brutality of the game.

There was a time- once- when Draco Malfoy would have scoffed at the mere thought of talking to a Mudblood.

But, sadly, those times were lost in the past.

"Granger," and his voice was the frigid chill of an arctic winter, "where is that fool of a half-blood?"

Granger started as she turned to face him, and for a moment Draco allowed the flicker of a smirk to cross his lips at her loss of composure. She took a deep breath and resettled her books in her arms.

"He's been gone all day, Malfoy. I haven't had the time to baby-sit him for you." She glared at him as best as she was able, once she could banish her surprise at his presence. The Prince of Slytherin had an uncanny ability to sneak up on anyone, anywhere. It made ignoring him so much harder when he could scare you just by saying your name.

Draco sneered briefly. "As I suspected, you are as useless as a Weasley." He turned to walk away, but Hermione continued the conversation before she could help herself.

"Then why did you even bother asking me?"

The Slytherin turned around, and a perfectly arched brow was raised. "I had a hope that- for once- you could prove me wrong about your uselessness." He walked away, leaving a spluttering Gryffindor in his wake.

It was nearly three hours later that the game exhausted itself.

Harry was one of the last from the ice, helping a limping Colin Creevey over to an unoccupied bench. Justin Finch-Fletchley ran over to grab the younger Gryffindor's other side, and they sat him on the bench with a sigh. Colin gave them a wavering grin as his ankle protested every move he made, and settled into the bench to wait for the others who needed to see Madame Pomphrey.

Harry stood back and watched the others return things to normal, smoothing the skate-marks out of the ice with spells and vanishing anything that had even a drop of blood on it. There was not one person who was not bleeding- even the girls, though they had quit the game early on- had the faint marks of freshly healed cuts all over their bodies.

The cold air felt wonderful against his overheated body- steam was rising from his bare arms, and Harry watched, bemused, as it dissipated into nothing. Seamus grinned tiredly at Harry from where he was casting at the ice, more than pleased at the carnage his idea had caused. Harry just shook his head at the other boy and crossed his arms over his chest as he watched the seriously injured begin their trek to the Infirmary.

"Of course I would find you here, in the midst of what could only have been some sort of vile Muggle sport," a caustic voice remarked from behind him, and Harry smothered a grin.

He turned, not at all surprised by the Slytherins appearance. Malfoy wore his usual clothing- black- accented by a icy green jumper, and a long black jacket. His hair was pulled back from his face, most likely to protect it from the wind. Harry just shrugged his shoulders in response.

"Well, it's not as if there were any purebloods playing, so no one was actually complaining." Harry explained reasonably, amused at the thought of the usually collected Slytherin playing any sport other than Quidditch. Predictably, Malfoy sneered at the thought of physical labour.

"That is because no Pureblood would be caught dead playing the sort of unruly, masochistic game that you've just ended." He snorted, and waved a hand at Harry's face. "Incidentally, you're bleeding." His lips twisted in a moue of distaste. "Get rid of it."

Harry snorted. "I can't see or feel it, Malfoy. Tell me where it is."

The Slytherin pointed to his own lip instead, and Harry wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. And, indeed, a smear of blood came away and stained his skin. Malfoy wrinkled his nose at the sight, but Harry just ignored him, concentrating. For a brief moment a line appeared between his eyebrows, but it disappeared shortly, as did the cut and the blood.

Harry waited patiently until the blond finished surveying him for other lacerations, watching the rest of the muggleborn witches and wizards troop up to the Castle. By the time Malfoy had reassured himself that he was no longer in danger of Harry bleeding anywhere near him, they were the only ones left at the lake.

"Am I healthy enough for you now, oh Master?" Harry intoned sardonically, but the Slytherin only smirked in satisfaction.

"For the moment, Hero." He replied as he began to walk back to the Castle, "For the moment."

Harry trotted to catch up to him, his mouth set in a hard line. "Quit calling me that, Malfoy." He glared at the other student, who blithely ignored him. "I've asked you often enough."

Malfoy looked over his shoulder at the Gryffindor, and smirked. "Oddly enough, I find that I don't care." He raised a brow as Harry muttered under his breath, and stopped, turning to face him.

"What was that, Hero? I couldn't hear you." Harry growled at the sight of Malfoy's 'innocent' face- amazingly enough, he could pull it off quite well- and repeated himself.

"I said, 'I'm not a hero', if you must know." Harry was startled out of his annoyance as the blond was suddenly in front of him, mere centimeters from his face.

"Oh, but you are, Potter," he breathed, and the feel of his breath caressed the Gryffindor's skin, "surely you must know that?" Malfoy pulled away and caught Harry's eyes, drowning him in a frosted, icy embrace. "You saved the whole world, and there is no witch or wizard alive who doesn't know what they owe you." Harry swallowed unsteadily as Malfoy leaned near once more, bringing his mouth to the Gryffindor's ear.

The Slytherin took a breath, and let it out slowly, close enough to the brunet that his long, pale lashes brushed against Harry's flushed cheek. "They need to be reminded that you could have left them to their Fate." Malfoy lowered his voice so that even as close as they were, Harry had to strain to hear him. "And that, I will do."

Abruptly the Slytherin stepped back, and resumed the walk to the Castle. "Come along, Hero. You need to shower-" as Harry jogged to catch up to the long-legged Slytherin he heard the sneer in the blonds' voice- "and change before dinner." Malfoy glared at Harry as the Gryffindor took his place next to the blond, and gestured to the clothes he was wearing before going on. "And you need to dedicate some thought to a new wardrobe. You are positively Muggle in that get up."

Hermione ignored everything that was going on around her as she ate, instead contenting herself with her usual sport of Harry-watching. He was unusually quiet- as, indeed, were some of the other boys in Gryffindor- and every now and again he would rub his wrist absently. But the silence of their end of the table was beginning to grate- Harry had not spoken since he had reappeared from wherever he had gone, and Ron was too obsessed over the most recent Cannons loss to speak to any one other than another fan.

"Hey, Harry-" Hermione began, waiting until the other Gryffindor looked up before going on- "do you know why Malfoy asked me where you were today?" Ron looked up sharply at the mention of the Slytherin. Both stared at Harry until he answered, though when he did his voice was far away.

"He wanted to talk about our project."

Hermione waited for more, until she realised that that was all Harry had to say on the subject. Ron snorted, leaning in close to the others until there was no chance that anyone sitting near them would be able to hear.

"I think he's trying to ferret his way into your good graces so that his family won't have to stand trial." Both of the others looked at him in shock, and Ron sat back, pleased. "Yeah, you see- Malfoy hates Harry, but then all of a sudden, because of a Muggle studies class project, he thinks it's the perfect opportunity to make Harry think he's as innocent as an angel."

Hermione raised an eyebrow at the ginger's assumptions, but refrained from saying anything, knowing that it would only inflame Ron if she found fault with his argument. Instead she turned to Harry, who was staring at Ron incredulously.

"We're all required to take that course, Ron- Pureblood, half-blood, muggleborn- it doesn't matter." Harry's voice was faintly bemused, as though he couldn't believe he had to explain this to the other Gryffindor. "I waited till my last year because I grew up with Muggles- Malfoy waited until his last year because he cannot abide Muggles." Harry's eyes sharpened on Ron, who stiffened in reaction.

It was not a gentle thing when all of Harry Potter was focused on you.

"Why did you wait till your last year to take the class, Ron?"

Ron muttered for a moment, until he realized that neither Harry nor Hermione were going to let him off the hook. "My father's nuts about the stuff- I didn't want to get involved with any of it."

Harry's gaze lessened, and he sat back from his friend. "See? We all have our reasons." Harry grinned at Hermione, who smiled back at the infectious sight. "Even though our 'Mione was too smart to wait until the last moment to sit through an easy class."

Hermione chuckled, and shook her finger at the two boys. "The neither of you had better come to me needing help on anything, you hear me? This is an easy class- even you, Ron, should do well in it."

Ron chuckled, even as he forced his face into a mournful expression. "Though the only things I know are from my father's crazy experiments…"

Harry and Hermione laughed as he trailed off, Ron joining in after a moment or two of continuing the charade.

"Today, we will start out class by learning of the Muggle invention called a…" the Professor, Charity Burbage, peered at her notes with a frown, "… a light switch." Satisfied that she had the correct object, she looked up. "Now, does anyone know what a 'light switch' does?"

Harry sighed, and stared up at the ceiling in an attempt to assuage the boredom. This was- by far- the most boring class he had ever been in. Ever. All they did was learn about things that Muggles took for granted- things that Harry took for granted! Sometimes he felt like he was going to go crazy.

While the non-Muggleborns in the class attempted to guess what the mysterious object called a 'light switch' was, Harry began to memorize the classroom- again- to keep from imploding.

Six desks with two students apiece were clustered in the center of the room, surrounded by an unhealthy amount of Muggle junk. It was everywhere- on the walls, the floor, Merlin some of it even hung from the ceiling. DVD players, boom boxes, remote controls, lamps, electric blankets, iPods, TV's, steering wheels, tires, wires and cords, answering machines, thermos'- everything was here.

And what was more- none of it could be used. Harry had already tried to make one of the iPods work, to no avail, and Hermione had taken the opportunity to explain why Muggle electronics wouldn't work at Hogwarts.

He huffed a sigh again, and re-crossed his arms across his chest. They had been broken up into partners the first day- Pure- and half-bloods paired with Muggleborns. Harry had been partnered with Malfoy right off the bat- so fast, actually, that he knew without a doubt that Dumbledore himself had suggested the partnering. He supposed that saving the entire world wasn't enough for the old man- no, now he had to go about ending the feud with his rival.

Malfoy turned to look at him, his face blank and expressionless, but they had been partners for long enough now that Harry could read boredom and annoyance in the Slytherin's gaze. Harry merely shrugged- it was the only response Malfoy was going to get. The last thing he wanted to do in this class was draw any more attention to himself than was already warranted.

But such was not his luck- Professor Burbage's face brightened at what she perceived to be someone volunteering an answer, and Harry slunk down in his chair.

"Mr. Potter! Do you know what the 'TV' stands for in the name of this device?" Harry stared at the witch in pure and unadulterated amazement. 'TV'? Honestly? Before he could answer, though, a voice he was altogether too familiar with began to speak.

"Oh, do enlighten us as to the meaning of this abbreviation," Malfoy drawled, sarcasm fairly dripping from his words, "we so rely on your wisdom, Hero."

Harry stared at Malfoy in shock- had he really just used that nickname where other people could hear it? But his shock turned to anger as he realised that yes, the blond had done just that, and clenched his jaw.

"Television," he spat, not taking his eyes away from Malfoy's as he answered, and Professor Burbage shifted nervously as the two glared at each other, wringing her hands.

"Ah, yes, thank you Mr. Potter, that was the correct answer." But she was again ignored, and for a minute she was occupied by the thought that she was about to witness her first Malfoy-Potter fight, and that she really rather wished they wouldn't.

"Alright, alright, please turn to page 76 of the text My Life As A Muggle by Daisy Hookum, and read her fascinating description of her first encounter with the 'television'." Burbage wrung her hands a little more, getting worried when neither Malfoy nor Potter made a move for their books, and added, "Five points will be taken from both Gryffindor and Slytherin if you two do not open your books this instant."

The two rivals broke off their intense glaring in pure shock, staring at their teacher in bemused affront. They had nearly murdered each other in their infamous battles more times than they could count- in battles that even Dumbledore and McGonagall were hesitant to interfere with. All Harry could think, in that one moment, was Does she really think five points is going to phase us? Between the two of us we've had more points taken off of our Houses in one month than anyone else has ever managed in a year.

But Professor Burbage knew none of this, and nodded insistently at their books. "Well, get to it."

Harry slowly opened his book to the right page as Malfoy did the same, both beyond incredulous. The prospect of a fight fled in the wake of their indignity, and though neither read the chapter, neither did they fight.

"I know you're here, Hero." Draco raised a brow at the Gryffindor's continued silence, and began to walk through the stacks. The Library was empty- most of the students were packing to leave for Holiday, and only the most studious were present. Though even they were in an unusual rush to finish their last projects and papers.

But Draco cared nothing for them- they mattered as little to him as a mighty oak cares for a mere breeze. The level of noise began to drop as he made his way deeper into the bookcases- the atmosphere itself became still and silent, and Draco did not call for the Gryffindor again.

His footsteps were muffled by the sheer presence of the books that were housed in these shelves, each foot fall making barely a sound on the old, worn floor. He walked slowly, aware that in the depths of the Library one should show proper respect for what lived on these shelves, and paced himself. This section of the Library was old enough that he would not diminish its grandeur by racing through its treasures- he had enough experience with his father's library to know when not to tempt the things that lived in the deepest recesses.

So he walked, and looked, and not far from the end of the stacks he found the Gryffindor. Harry was seated on the floor, legs drawn up to his chest, chin resting on his knees. Draco waited for a moment before going over, giving Harry time to realise he was there. The Gryffindor did not acknowledge the Slytherin as he walked towards him, but Draco was not dismayed.

He knew better than most what Harry's magic consisted of- and knowing who was near him at all times was a skill that the young wizard excelled at. He knew Draco as there, just as Draco knew he would know.

Draco stopped in front of the Gryffindor and waited, unbuttoning his jacket and shoving his hands deep into his pockets. He wanted to lean against the shelves, but he knew better than to disrespect the books that were housed even here. For a while, they just were.

"What do you want, Malfoy?"

Harry's voice was tired, drawn, and Draco clenched his jaw in response. The silence had been an easy one, one that needed no explanations except to those who were not a part of it, but the question broke that easiness.

"Quit moping, Hero. It is not acceptable behaviour." Draco raised a perfectly arched brow as Harry's head came up sharply, and smirked, knowing he was on the right track. "I realise you think you won't be able to survive without the Mudblood and the Blood-Traitor at your side for two weeks, but I daresay you will."

There wasn't even a flicker in Harry's eyes at the terms Draco used on his closest friends- he had spent too much time with the blond to not realise when the Slytherin was just trying to get a rise out of him.

"What makes you so sure, Malfoy?" he asked wearily, once again resting his chin on his knees, but this time looking up at Draco as the Slytherin decided on his answer.

"I am sure because you are Harry Potter, defender of the weak and innocent, champion of those who need help, defeater of vile dark lords and deadly monsters alike." Draco sneered, though Harry's lips were quirked up in a facsimile of a smile. "You will not let two weeks go by without trying to save someone else."

"Shows what you know," Harry muttered, but Draco heard him, and knelt down on the ground in response, eyes flashing.

"I do know, Hero," Draco hissed, his voice as intense as Harry had ever heard it. "Because you have done it before, and you will do it again, and you will revel in it every time." Draco's eyes glinted like chips of ice as they glared at Harry, and the Gryffindor shivered as though he was out in the cold.

"Why do you care?" Harry asked, shutting his eyes against the force of the Slytherin's. "I don't understand you, Malfoy." Draco watched the Gryffindor even as Harry shut him out, noting things that Harry would never have wanted the Slytherin to see. "Why do you care?" he asked again, plaintively, and Draco let a frown twist his lips for a single moment.

"Some one must, don't you agree?" Harry glanced up in shock at the words- but Draco's face was guileless once more, though Harry could read there what no one else could. "Dumbledore thinks only to use you-" Draco's face transformed into a sneer of pure loathing for the Headmaster, though it lasted only a brief moment- "McGonagall does not understand you, and your friends seek only to turn you into what they want you to become."

Harry's eyes flicked down to Draco's hands- resting on his knees!- before darting back up to watch the Slytherin as he continued to speak.

"You have power, Hero, and fame, and no one alive in this world can challenge you and come out still alive at the end of it." Draco's eyes bore into Harry- the flecks of arctic ice drilling into the entranced verdant green as the Gryffindor drank in every word. "You need to show that- you need to become that- and yet you sit here, in the shadows of books whose words praise men like you, and do nothing more than grieve over those whose only wish is to control you."

Harry struggled out of the net that Malfoy's words had caught him in, frowning. "Hermione and Ron don't want to control me," he protested, looking up at Draco as the Slytherin continued to sit on his heels before the Gryffindor. "They're my friends. I don't think the thought has ever occurred to them."

Draco sneered, and his grip on Harry's knees tightened. "And yet you don't deny the others, do you? You know what it is they want from you- you know that they do not want Harry Potter, Hero of the World. They want Harry Potter, easily guided child." Draco freed one hand and gestured widely, encompassing the whole of Hogwarts and Wizarding England in that one motion.

"If you think for one moment that the world wants to deal with you as who you are, then you are mistaken." Draco said savagely, and Harry could only stare as the frozen orbs of Draco's eyes held him. "They want a plaything- someone they can guide through life as easily as a dog. They want someone who is willing to please them- and who therefore will do anything to make them happy." Draco leaned in to Harry, and his last words were hissed more than spoken. "And if you continue as you are, you will give them everything they want."

"How do you know all this?" Harry spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness mixed with denial. "How can you know all this?"

Draco snorted in disdain. "If you think a Malfoy is incapable of following the political trends of the moment, then you are sorely mistaken."

Harry frowned as the statement brought another thought to mind. "How do I know you aren't trying to control me either?" he asked softly, slightly afraid of what Draco would do.

But nothing of the sort happened- and Harry's eyes widened to see a genuine smile cross the Slytherin's face- if only for a moment. "Thank you, Hero," the blond replied sarcastically, "for thinking for once, instead of reacting." Draco stood suddenly, and Harry closed his eyes against the dizziness the motion inflicted within him. "Of course I am trying to control you- everyone you meet is going to try and control or manipulate you in some way."

The Slytherin bent back down to Harry's level for a split second, his next words spoken directly into Harry's ear.

"You have to choose who you want to control you," he whispered, "because otherwise, the world will never stop trying."

Draco stood upright once more, and began to walk out of the Library. "Come, Hero. We still have a project to turn into that Mudblood loving teacher of ours."

Harry stood slowly, his mind whirling with too many thoughts for him to manage all at once. But Draco was waiting for him in the midst of the stacks, and he was right, they did have to turn the project in, and for now, everything he had learned could wait.

Dumbledore's office was exactly as Harry remembered it- large and roomy, filled with knick-knacks and odd things the Gryffindor had never seen before. Fawkes watched Harry as he walked through the room, gingerly exploring the newest additions, sometimes squawking out a warning before Harry did something foolhardy.

He had been waiting for the Headmaster for over fifteen minutes, and by now he was more than ready to ditch the meeting and head out to the Quidditch Pitch, which was where he had been heading before the summons had been delivered. The door opened, and Harry turned to see Professor McGonagall enter.

"Ah, Harry, I'm glad to see you're already here." She smiled at her favorite student, and Harry made himself return the smile. Though he knew she would never think of controlling him as Draco had said- he thought- but Draco's words would not leave him. Harry wondered why this meeting had been called- there were no classes, and no reason for him to be taken from his Holiday with things that might tarnish his Christmas Spirit.

McGonagall took a seat across from Dumbledore's still empty one, and gestured for Harry to join her. "We have just returned from an Order meeting," she informed him, as Harry slowly sank into the chair. "There are some things that the Headmaster feels it is wise to share with you."

Harry frowned- what was the reason for the meeting? He decided to ask. "I though the Order was disbanded after Voldemort died…"

McGonagall had the grace to look ashamed at Harry's question. "It was, but certain circumstances with the Ministry have made it necessary to resume operations, as it were." Harry opened his mouth to ask another question, but McGonagall beat him to it. "I am sure the Headmaster will explain things to you, Mr. Potter."

Harry settled back in his chair, trying not to let his thoughts show on his face. But there was resentment brewing in his heart- he was a member of the Order of the Phoenix- and he had not been informed of it's resurrection. Although, he thought bitterly, I should not be surprised, given its namesake.

Dumbledore entered to their silence a few minutes later, eyes twinkling and a small, pleased smile on his lips. Harry waved a half-hearted welcome to the older man, who returned it with a twinkling smile and a hearty laugh.

"Good morning, dear boy." He held out a tin of sweets- "Lemon drop?" Both Harry and McGonagall demurred, and the Headmaster popped one in his mouth before settling down to business. "Now, Harry- as Professor McGonagall has no doubt already informed you- we have reinstated the Order of the Phoenix." He waited for a minute, and Harry belatedly nodded. "Good. Then what I will tell you should not come as too much of a surprise."

Harry sat further back in his seat, and the voice in the back of his head that sounded suspiciously like Draco began to laugh.

"We have decided- the members of the Order, I mean- that certain things in the Ministry are not going as well as we had hoped after the fall of Voldemort." Harry stomach sank as he began to see where this was going, and Dumbledore continued on, oblivious.

"And since you are also a member, we thought it would be best to inform you as to our decision right away." Which Dumbledore attempted to do, but Harry interrupted.

"Excuse me, Headmaster, but can I ask you something first?"

"Of course, my boy, anything you want." Harry darkly reflected that that might not have been the smartest thing for the old man to say, but kept his peace for the moment.

"I was wondering, sir, who was actually in the Order these days." Harry kept his face as innocent as he could, though McGonagall looked at him askance as the Headmaster began to answer.

"Well, Alastair Moody, and Kingsley and myself and Professor McGonagall, and Mundungus Fletcher, and Arthur and Molly Weasley. Then of course, there is Arabella Figg, Hagrid and Hestia Jones." Dumbledore smiled benignly. "Why do you ask, Harry?"

Harry shrugged. "No real reason, I guess. Just curiosity." But his thoughts were lightened, at least. Hermione, Ron, George and Charley were not mentioned, and Dumbledore would never have neglected to mention them if he thought it would make Harry more amenable to his plan.

"Now," Dumbledore continued, "we have decided that you must put in an appearance at the Ministry Christmas Gala, my dear boy. There are people who would be simply delighted to meet you, and you should get to know some of the people in charge of our World, for I dare say that you will be one of them before long." The Headmaster's eyes twinkled at Harry, who merely stared back.

"What do you say, my boy? Does that sound like fun?"

But Harry's mind was elsewhere- it was recalling that day in the Library with Draco, and he was not happy with what he was remembering.

'They want Harry Potter, easily guided child', Draco had said, and if that wasn't the way they were treating him right now, Harry would give up all the gold in his accounts. The silence in the office grew as Harry thought, and McGonagall and Dumbledore exchanged puzzled expressions. They had thought that Harry would be pleased with the offer- it was a chance to shine, to show the world the person who had really killed the Dark Lord.

But Harry was not following their thoughts- he thought about the Minister and the press and Rita Skeeter. He thought about dealing with the people who would want autographs and pictures, and he was not sure he could deal with them. Harry frowned down at his hands, clasped in his lap, and thought about what else this would entail, if he agreed to it. Future dinners and parties would be a must, because hadn't he already attended one?

And then there would be the politics- which he was not ready for. The dancing- he was miserable at it. The speeches they would be sure to have him make- he could not face doing that, not yet. The pain was still too raw, too new for him to speak to others about- not even Hermione had been entrusted with his confidence in this case. Harry settled further and further into his thoughts, not seeing the expressions being passed over his head as he took far too long to hand them what they wanted- a simple 'yes'.

"Harry?" McGonagall called his name softly, but it startled the Gryffindor and he jerked upright, eyes landing on his Head of House and staying there.

"Yes, Professor?" He replied, though he knew exactly what she wanted to know.

"Are you quite alright?" Her voice was unsure- Harry pictured her taking him to the Infirmary and had to restrain a laugh at the image. But Dumbledore broke in, and asked his question once again.

"What do you say, Harry? Will you do it?"

Harry looked up at the Headmaster- his face expressionless- and said, simply, "No."

Harry idly tossed the rock up in the air, catching it easily as it fell once more towards his hand. The snow of the last three days had finally melted- burned off by the persistent sun. Though it was almost the New Year, the blazing sun had the feel of late fall to it, and Harry was outside enjoying the change in weather, for he knew it would not last long.

The steps that led to the Entrance Hall of Hogwarts were built wide and long- perfect for a lazy teen to stretch out on and still have a spectacular view of the property that belonged to the school. And as there were few people in the Castle, and even fewer who would voluntarily leave the building, Harry was free to stretch out wherever he may, without fear of tripping anyone.

He tossed the rock once again, enjoying the thud as it hit his hand securely in the center. Harry pondered going down to the Lake, but the benches were in the shade, and that might be tempting Fate a little too much. No- he'd rather stay in the warm sunlight than venture anywhere else.

The rock once again found itself in the air, spinning lazily as it rose and then fell, dropping easily into the hand that was outstretched to catch it. Harry let out a sigh of pure, unadulterated pleasure. No one was here to call on his time, there was no pressing schoolwork that he needed to rush to do, and there was no one to bother him. Life, at this moment, was perfect.

"Move over, Hero. You are taking up all the sun."

Harry sat up at the frigid voice, and looked towards its owner, wondering why the Slytherin was coming out of hiding. Draco detached himself from the shadows of the doorway, his black clothing making it easy even for the pale blond to blend into the shadows. Harry shifted sideways- though the entire stairway was sunny, he knew as well as Draco which way the sun moved over the course of the day- and made room for the Slytherin on his step.

Draco remained silent as he sat, Harry noted with interest. Usually the blond had something to say immediately. But for right now it seemed he was content to soak up the unexpected sun as much as Harry was.

Harry watched him, wondering what the Slytherin was thinking as his eyes traced the lines of his face. Draco's eyes were closed, thin eyelids masking the chilly arctic orbs that missed nothing. His long white lashes rested easily against his high cheeks, leaving little blue shadows on the pale skin. Harry's eyes followed the curve of his cheek, trailed over the strong chin, surveyed the aquiline nose.

Harry glanced away after a moment, and tossed the rock into the air once more, giving himself something to think about. But it didn't smack back into his palm, though he heard the sound. He looked down, and the rock was in Draco's elegant hand, and the Slytherin was examining it intensely.

"That's mine, you know," he told the blond lazily. "No one said you could take it." But he didn't really care- the sun was too warm, and he was too pleased with himself, and Draco didn't answer him anyway. The Slytherin's icy eyes traced every angle of the little stone- every dent was measured, every scratch smoothed with a finger. Harry watched, intrigued by the Slytherin and everything he did, and absorbed the sun.

Draco stood abruptly, and looked down at Harry with inscrutable eyes. The Gryffindor met those glacial eyes easily, wondering what thoughts went on behind those frigid orbs, wondering if he was the reason for some of them. But Draco leaned down, and took Harry's hand in his own, pressing the rock into it firmly.

That one moment lasted for a life-time. Harry looked up from the rock and their hands to Draco's eyes, and for a split second those icy diamonds softened with warmth.

But then Draco was gone, and his hands were clasped around a little, ordinary rock, and he was grinning like a loon.

"So, tell me how your vacation went!"

Hermione was as ecstatic about being back as Harry was about having her back, and the two chattered back and forth as though it had been years and not weeks since they had seen each other. Ron left them to it, as used to their conversations as he was, and began to unload his pockets of their shrunken goods. Seamus and Dean wandered over, hands full as well with still shrunken packages, and the three began to turn the Gryffindor Common Room into nothing more than a candy store.

Hermione stopped talking to Harry long enough to berate the three Seventh Years, but she was laughing while she did so and no one took any notice of her lecture. Harry settled on the couch with his friend, and listened to the tale of her vacation.

"You'd never believe it, Harry! We saw an actual Yeti. A real, live Yeti! And what's more- I have pictures!" Hermione began to dig into a bag at her side, and Harry smiled at her excitement. But his thoughts began to wander, as they always did, though he did gasp at the sight of the huge white haired beast that lived in the Himalayas she had visited. She showed him the rest of her pictures, and at some point everyone else who had heard about the Yeti came up to demand to see for themselves.

Harry slipped out of the Common Room unnoticed, breathing a sigh of relief as he escaped the pandemonium of Gryffindor House. The corridors of the school were blissfully silent compared to the crazed atmosphere of the Tower, and Harry set off for nowhere in particular.

"I thought Hero's weren't allowed to wander the halls at night," a silken voice said from the shadows, and Harry turned, no longer wondering how the Slytherin knew where to find him.

"We do a lot of things we're not supposed to, including murder." Harry retorted, his good mood of earlier falling away at the mention of 'hero's'.

Draco tisked in exasperation. "Hero's do not murder, they…" Draco paused, and tapped a finger against his chin. "They… rid the world of an evil that no one else could manage to take care of." Harry barked a laugh at that, and Draco fell into step beside him as they continued walking.

"I suppose you can put it that way, if it makes you feel better," Harry allowed graciously, but Draco raised a brow at him and snorted elegantly.

"It is merely the truth, Potter." Harry flinched at the sound of his surname, so unexpected when it came from Draco's mouth. "After all, one must listen to their betters in matters as important as this."

Draco's mouth created a moue of distaste at the mere thought that anyone could possibly claim to be his better, and Harry had to laugh. Wintry eyes slashed his way in the darkness, though Harry knew the Slytherin could not blame him for his reaction.

"So tell me, Hero, where you are wandering to on this, the first night of loud common rooms and impossible year-mates."

Harry sighed. "I haven't really thought about it, actually." He shrugged, knowing that Draco would see it in the dim light. "Before you asked, 'away' worked just fine for me."

Draco nodded, and they continued to walk in silence. The glimmer of an idea worked its way into Harry's subconscious, and he glanced at the Slytherin pacing next to him uncertainly. Would he approve-?

"Do you care about those robes, Malfoy?" Harry asked, and was gratified to see Draco start at the question.

"Not as such…" the blond replied, "though I would hate to see them completely ruined." Harry nodded, and the Slytherin dropped the subject. Silence ruled for the interminable minutes they walked, Harry gently steering them in the path he wanted them to take. But once they entered the bathroom, Draco had something to say.

"What are you doing with me, Hero?" he demanded, and if it wasn't for the practice Harry had had at reading the Slytherin's tones he would have cancelled his plan. But as it was, he merely walked over to a sink, and hissed.

The Parseltongue came to him easily- one of the things Harry had been afraid of after defeating Voldemort was the loss of the Serpents Tongue, but he was grateful to have retained it. Draco watched with aloof eyes as the hidden doorway opened, and glanced over at Harry with a raised brow.

The Gryffindor didn't even need to be told what he was thinking.

"Welcome to the Chamber of Secrets, Malfoy."

"I think- between you and me- that Malfoy is becoming clingy." Harry ignored Ron's statement for a moment, until he had finished transplanting the wormroot.

"Why do you say that?" he asked casually, watching as Ron struggled with the same plant, though he didn't offer to help.

"Because-" gasp "he is always around you-" grunt, as he hefted the plant into the air, "and even though that damn project is-" huff of breath, then a sigh of relief, and Ron turned to face Harry and finish what he was saying. "And even though that damnable project is over he still finds ways to talk to you."

Harry raised an incredulous brow. "And you think that that means he's become 'clingy'?" Harry snorted. "You realise you're implying that he's acting like a jealous girlfriend, right?" Ron paled drastically, and Harry laughed at the sight.

"Oh, Merlin no. Harry I never ever meant it like that." Ron flushed, then paled once more. "I bet the little ferret's gay too, now that you mention it. Probably trying to get in your pants so that you'll vouch for him at his trial." Harry let Ron natter on- it kept the redhead distracted, and then he wouldn't noticed that Harry was distracted by something totally different.

Why did Draco keep seeking him out? Harry had never thought about it before, but Ron had at least one good point in his whole misguided spiel. He was always around. And Harry wondered if anyone else found the whole thing as strange as he did. Not hardly, he thought after a moment, because he was the one living it. Everyone else merely watched, and thought they made a difference in his life.

Harry turned back to the plants, and to Ron, and made the right noises at the right times to indicate agreement.

Not that he heard anything the other Gryffindor said.

The March day was perfect. A crisp, clear sky, only a shallow breeze, and nothing more ominous than sparrows in the sky. Harry sat on his broom high above the rest of his team, wondering vaguely what the score was as he kept his eyes trained for the Snitch. Draco sat opposite him, also surveying the Pitch, and Harry wondered what- if anything- could escape those frosty eyes.

Harry smiled to himself, and circled the Pitch idly, feeling the reassuring hum of the Firebolt under his hands. Harry stopped suddenly, an idea popping into his head, and with a wicked grin he took off towards the ground. Draco followed him instantly, as Harry knew he would, and they raced towards a certain point of the Pitch that only Harry knew.

But he veered off course, and set to weaving through the startled players, trying not to laugh. He was bored- and in a Quidditch match there was only one way to keep yourself occupied- and that was to trick the other Seeker. Draco was drawing up to him now, and Harry glanced over his shoulder for one moment before setting his broom to break free from the thick of the game.

Draco followed, and the two Seekers soared high above the others, perfectly matched as they flew, chasing nothing. Harry grinned at Draco as the Slytherin Seeker matched him turn for turn, fall for fall, spiral for spiral, knowing full well that Draco knew there was no Snitch either.

Those arctic eyes seared through Harry, and with nary a word between them they split. Harry drove his Firebolt up and up, and Draco peeled back, and both returned to their prospective sides. Harry kept his Firebolt moving, his eyes searching for the glint of gold that would be all he was able to see of a Snitch at this distance.

And- yes- there it was, hovering just below the Slytherin boxes, taking a moment to rest before finding a new hiding place.

Harry did not intend to give it any time. He tilted his broom down, and shot straight down to the ground- Draco was closer and he didn't seem to have noticed it, and Harry wanted to keep it that way. Draco set off to chase Harry- there was something in the way he flew that announced that he knew where the Snitch was, and Draco was determined to find it as well- and the Slytherin chased Harry around the bottom of the field.

Harry kept his eye on the Snitch, even as he mislead Draco, and he stalled for a moment in the center of the Pitch, pretending to look as if he had lost it. Draco flew past him before halting, but even as he did so Harry took off towards the Slytherin boxes and began the chase in earnest.

The Snitch fluttered straight up along the box, and Harry spun himself into a fast-moving spiral that the Snitch could not out fly. He stretched his hand out- and caught it.

Gryffindor screamed with delight as Harry flew towards them, brandishing the Snitch above his head in triumph. The Slytherin Team headed towards the locker room as Harry landed, and the rest of Gryffindor House spilled onto the field to congratulate their Team. Harry pulled away from the celebration for a moment, his eyes searching for Draco, and he found the Slytherin on the edge of the field, watching.

Even at that distance, Harry could see those wintry eyes watching him. And Draco inclined his head- barely- just enough that Harry could see and know.

Nighttime was when Harry felt most alive- when he felt that he could do anything and the world would not be able to blame him. The shadows held secrets and cradled them to their breasts, sheltering them from the outside world, protecting their deepest desires and fears.

Harry passed from shadow to shadow, from half-hidden alcove to tiny little hallway, feet making no sound of the floor as he traveled. He didn't- quite- know where he was going… there was no more thought to his actions than that of 'go- explore- discover', and Harry was doing exactly that.

He stopped- frozen- when someone walked past his hiding place. But it was someone he recognized, and Harry stepped softly after him, following in his path. Draco stopped by a window, and rested his arms against the ledge, staring out into the night. Harry watched from the relative safety of a shadow, wondering what the Slytherin was doing. But for a long, long while, Draco just stared.

His hair was down, for once, flowing around his head in perfectly ordered waves, obedient even now to Draco's wishes. It fell to mid-back, and Harry marveled for a moment at the sheer beauty of the silvery waterfall. Draco shifted, and the moonlight illuminated his features just long enough for Harry's chest to tighten in reaction.

He drifted out of the shadows and moved towards Draco, and the Slytherin merely looked over his shoulder at the Gryffindor.

"I was wondering how long you were going to hide in the shadows, Hero," Draco said softly, his icy eyes perhaps softer than they might have been in the full light of day. Harry shrugged.

"I didn't really want to intrude, up until now." Harry said honestly, and Draco laughed, but shortly, and the sound was a mere echo before it had even begun. Harry moved closer, until he was next to the Slytherin in the window, and leaned his elbows on windowsill as well.

The silence fell over them once more, lasting for long minutes before it was disrupted. Draco sighed, and dragged one hand through his hair, and turned to face Harry.

"I know why I am out of my Common Room at this hour, Hero, but why are you?" Harry shrugged at Draco's question, unsure of the answer. Diamond chip eyes watched him closely, and Harry wondered for a moment what they were looking for.

"I have no idea." He waved his hand towards the sky, and added, "I like to watch the stars and the shadows."

Draco let a near-inaudible snort escape him. "And so you wander the halls, looking for nothing more than stars and shadows, and you find me." He sighed, and Harry suddenly wondered why Draco was out in the halls in the first place. "Goodnight, Hero." Draco said, and turned away from the window.

Harry reached out quickly, and placed his hand on Draco's elbow. Draco froze- and Harry briefly wondered what would happen, now that he had touched the Slytherin Prince. But Draco looked from his hand to his eyes, and Harry saw nothing more in them than he had ever seen.

"What's wrong, Draco?" Harry asked softly, and released the captive elbow with a jerk as he realised that he had called the blond by his first name. But Draco just shook his head. Harry waited though- and not long after, the blond began to speak.

"Mother's trial begins tomorrow- I just got the notice today." The Slytherin shrugged lightly, and Harry began to shake his head. "There is nothing I can do about it, though. With all the power of Malfoy behind me as the only male survivor, I can do nothing." Harry wasn't sure he was meant to hear the last bit, or the undertones of what Draco couldn't say.

But he did.

"Hero," a frigid voice said from behind him, and the entire hallway froze as Harry Potter turned to face Draco Malfoy. The Slytherin looked like a statue of ice- his clothing was of white and silver, his hair was pulled into a neat tail, and his eyes blazed like glaciers reflecting the full moonlight.

"Yes?" Harry said with a raised brow- there were far too many people in the hallway for him to ask any question more detailed- and Draco's voice was as cold as helium when he spoke again.

"I would speak with you- privately," he added, for when Harry made as if to follow Ron began to also. Harry gestured for Ron to stay, and followed the Slytherin into an empty classroom. Draco flicked his wand at the door, and Harry shivered as he felt the Silencing and Locking Spells take place,

"What's wrong?" Harry asked, when Draco just stood there. Draco opened his mouth, but shook his head and closed it again. Harry stood there, ready to draw his wand at any moment, but the Slytherin was having enough trouble forming words, much less spells.

"My mother-" he began, and Harry's heart clenched as he predicted what Draco was going to say.

"I'm so sorry, Draco." Harry said, sick to his stomach at the thought of what they would do to Narcissa Malfoy, but the blond looked at him quickly, icy eyes shining with gratitude.

"No, she's fine. She's fine." Draco breathed the last word, and Harry began to breath again. But Draco went on, for once oblivious to anything but his news. "Whatever you did for her- it worked. She was granted a full reprieve, and all charges were dropped." Draco's head darted up to stare at Harry, his eyes piercing into the Gryffindor.

"Why did you do anything, Hero?"

Harry laughed at that, though Draco glared at him.

"You call me 'Hero' all the time, but when I live up to my name, you ask my why?" Harry looked away from the Slytherin as the joke fell flat, and shrugged. "It was the right thing to do- she bore no Mark, she was an unwilling hostess and captive, and she did all she could to help me when I needed it." Harry looked back at Draco, and spread his hands in entreaty. "That's why I did it. She did not deserve any of the punishments that were awaiting her."

Draco stared at him- for so long Harry began to shift nervously. In the light of those frosted silver eyes he could imagine anything, though at the moment they were not leaning towards the 'good' end of things.

"I rarely say this, Hero, so pay attention." Draco's words dragged Harry back to the present, and he nodded to show he was paying attention.

"Thank you."

Draco was gone from the room before Harry could move. His heart was racing a mile a minute, and his ears felt all fuzzy and cottony. Surely Draco Malfoy had not just thanked someone for something? And to have that person be Harry Potter was almost unthinkable. But, obviously, Draco had thought it. And done it.

And Harry could have sworn that there had been the slightest pressure on his lips before Draco had left. But he was not well versed enough in kisses to be any kind of judge. Not that he would be willing to share this information with anyone else, either.

The students were restless today, Dumbledore noted absently, his smiling eyes twinkling down at the four Houses. Minerva glared at him from her seat to his right, but it was a half-hearted attempt.

May of their favorite students would be leaving the halls of Hogwarts soon- and there was no telling if the Professors would see any of them again. Some notable exceptions, such as Hermione Granger and Susan Bones, would be back within two years to take on teaching positions- taking over Charms and Transfiguration, in their cases.

Others… Dumbledore sighed as his eyes roamed over to Gryffindor Table, and landed on young Harry Potter. The teen had drawn so far away from him recently- Dumbledore had no idea where he'd gone wrong. But he must have, for Harry to so obviously distrust him. He was just trying to help the boy- he had no idea what to do with his future, and Dumbledore had offered a good alternative to anything else the teen might have thought up.

But he had been summarily rejected- before he had even begun to set things into motion! Harry Potter was a strong, dangerous wizard, that much was for certain, and Dumbledore wondered if the boy knew how much trouble he could land himself in if he wasn't careful. To have that much power, and no control over it… It was unthinkable that Harry should be allowed to roam free, but what other choice did they have? It was not like they could force the boy to do anything he didn't want to.

For a brief, brief moment, Dumbledore allowed himself to wonder what it would be like to possess that much power. It would be… intoxicating… he sighed. But he would never be as powerful a wizard as Harry Potter, that he knew. He had trained the boy himself, after all.

A brief shout of laughter rose from the Slytherin Table, and Dumbledore looked over, wondering what the normally sober children would have to laugh about. Though everyone was in a good mood, given that it was nearing the end of term. But Mr. Zabini and Ms. Parkinson were shoving their chuckles back where they had come from, though they still glanced at Mr. Malfoy with mischief in their eyes.

Dumbledore watched the young Mr. Malfoy carefully, wondering what was going through the boy's mind. With his mother cleared of all charges over a month ago, Dumbledore had had nothing to tempt the boy with, and he was not sure where Draco Malfoy's loyalty lay. The Headmaster resisted the urge to snort. A Malfoy was always loyal to other Malfoy's, and no one else. Such was the way with all Pureblood families, as their Traditions dictated.

Minerva grabbed his attention, and pointed it towards the Ravenclaw Table, where those enterprising youngsters were trying to create rum out of water. Dumbledore watched, amused, as the goblet fountained it's contents all over the spell caster.

"No, Ron." Harry said for the tenth- eleventh, twelfth- time, "I don't think I'm going to spend the summer at the Burrow until I can get on my feet." Harry sighed. This was so much more complicated than he had thought it would be.

"Well, I don't see why not, Harry. We have the room." Ron stubbornly insisted on giving Harry the same offer time after time, seeming to think that if he offered it enough, Harry would just cave. But Harry had no intention of doing anything of the sort- he was perfectly happy with his plan to retreat into Muggle London and buy a flat at a reasonable price. The last thing he needed was to be cooped up in the Burrow with parents and siblings that weren't his, for an entire summer.

"No, thank you Ron. I like what I'm going to do." Harry tried- he really, really tried- to be polite, but there was only so much one man could take. Ron huffed, and muttered under his breath, but left the subject alone. For now. Harry knew he'd be asked again later if he was really sure about the whole Muggle London thing.

He heaved a heavy sigh, and stood from the bench they were sharing with Hermione. "I'll talk to you all later."

Hermione waved farewell but didn't look up from her book, and Ron flat out ignored him. Harry shook his head and walked off. For right now, he wasn't going to care what they thought.

"Trouble in paradise, Hero?" Harry didn't even turn around.

"You could say that, Draco." Harry snorted, and faced the Slytherin who was walking next to him. "If I was less than the man I am, Ron would have three black eyes and his mouth sown shut."

Draco laughed- but he stopped, quickly. His icy eyes held onto the smile, though, and Harry smiled back. "I see you've plotted out the contingency plan for if you do choose to become a lesser man." Harry chuckled.

"Yeah, I guess you're right." They walked for a bit more before Harry brought up a new subject. "When are you leaving?"

"Immediately after the awards ceremony. Mother does not want to be caught in any unnecessary blockage with people as common as these." Draco smirked, and Harry couldn't help but marvel at the sight. As sarcastic a bastard as he was, Draco Malfoy could make a smirk into an expression of utmost joy. It took talent to be able to make one expression mean so many different things.

"I think I'm leaving then, too. Otherwise, I doubt I'll ever be free of the place." Harry sighed again and stopped at the small garden that hid one of the entrances to the dungeons. He rubbed the back of his neck to rid it of some of the stress that had accumulated, but nothing he did could really help. He'd tried.

But hands pushed him down onto a bench he hadn't noticed before, and then Draco was massaging all of the tension out of his shoulders. Harry let out a long breath of relief, and let his head fall forward, offering more of himself to Draco's hands. The Slytherin's strong hands drove the aches right out of his mind- his hands roamed up and down his back, to his biceps and shoulder blades, to his collarbone and neck.

Harry let the Slytherin do as he wanted- just so long as he didn't stop. He hadn't felt this good in a long while- probably before the beginning of the year- and he never wanted it to end.

"Merlin, Draco," Harry breathed after a moment, eyes falling shut in bliss, "that's some talent you have."

Harry felt the huff of the Slytherin's laughter against the skin of his neck, and the hands paused in their work for a moment as Draco leaned over Harry's shoulder. "Then I am grateful that you appreciate all that I do for you, Hero," the Slytherin whispered in Harry's ear, "because it's a damn sight more than your 'friends' are doing."

Harry shrugged in response, but stopped the motion halfway through as Draco's hands continued as they had been. Harry let the strong fingers work out the knots and kinks in his shoulders and back, resisting the urge to moan aloud in pleasure. Draco chuckled softly in Harry's ear as he bent forward once more, fingers digging into Harry's shoulders and forcing the breath out of the Gryffindor.

"Incidentally, Mother wishes to meet you."

Draco stepped back from Harry quickly as the Gryffindor swung around on the bench, looking up at the Slytherin with an expression close to panic in his eyes.

"She wants to what?" Harry repeated dumbly, staring up into the icy eyes that were laughing- laughing!- at his dread.

"Be easy, Hero." Draco worked hard to keep the amusement out of his face, but he was failing, and he knew it. "She merely wishes to compliment you on your ability to control the Ministry." Harry's face shuttered as Draco leaned close to him once more, and the Slytherin turned his face to speak into the Gryffindor's ear. "What were the words, Potter?" he breathed, his breath tickling Harry's skin, " 'If you want to keep your position as Minister, you'll drop all of these foolish charges against Mrs. Malfoy?' "

Harry trembled as the blond came even closer, his own breath shuddering in and out of his lungs. How had Draco found out about this? No one was supposed to know- Harry could have sworn that no one else knew. But, obviously, he was wrong.

"How do you know this, Draco?" Harry countered, and the Slytherin laughed. A real laugh, long and hard, and Harry shivered in response to the sound.

"How do I know, Hero?" Draco responded, and pulled away from Harry to look into his eyes. "I know because when the Minister freed my Mother from Azkaban, he was terrified." Wintry eyes held Harry still- pinned him to his seat. "Terrified of you, and what you could do to him and his career." Draco raised a brow. "And he made sure my Mother knew who to thank for her unexpected freedom. And she made sure to tell me."

Draco did not add that his Mother wished him to be done with Potter now that he had served his purpose, but he didn't need to. Harry was picking up on his undertones and meanings as well as Blaise could, though they had only truly known each other for less than a year.

"So what?" Harry retorted, standing up abruptly and walking a few quick steps away from Draco. "What I told that fool of a man was nothing more than the truth. Narcissa was- is-innocent, and any charges they would have lain on her would have been a lie." Harry glared at the Slytherin who was walking towards him, and added spitefully, "I did not have to do anything, you realise. I could have-"

Harry stared down at the hand on his chest, his words cut off by no more than a light pressure from the blond. Draco looked at him evenly, no expression visible on his face.

"Did I say that we were ungrateful?" Draco asked, and the Gryffindor looked away, suddenly ashamed of his words. "Did I say that we did not want your interference? Have I implied anything other than thanks for your actions?"

The Slytherin waited patiently for his answer, and Harry shook his head sharply. "No," he muttered, and Draco quirked his lips.

"Then do not worry yourself over it." Harry glanced up suddenly, and the Slytherin was smirking in pleasure. "The mere thought of that pompous bastard going to Mother to personally see to her release is a balm to my soul."

Harry snorted. "You have no soul." Draco grinned thoughtfully, though the Slytherin's impassive façade was in place again immediately.

"According to most, you would be right."

Harry chuckled at the Slytherin, but didn't disagree.

It was hot for the last day of June, though Harry knew that the summer weather would only get worse and worse. There was no discernable breeze from any direction, and the students and parents in the crowd were beyond suffering. Most had conjured their own little breezes- and those magical winds were the only movement of the air- the trees themselves seemed to bow under the invisible weight of the sun. Dumbledore's speech was winding to a close- heads perked up imperceptibly as the final words were spoken.

"…Now go, and remember everything that we have taught you here, and do us proud."

Harry grimaced at the presumptiveness of the Headmaster, though he cheered as loudly as anyone else. The Muggleborns in the crowd took their hats off and threw them in the air impulsively, roaring with approval as the other students followed their example.

And that was it- Harry's time at Hogwarts was over, and it was time- more than time- to begin his own life.

He turned with a sigh and began to wade through the mass of bodies- parents forcing their way through the crowd to their children, the children in turn grouping up with their friends and exclaiming over the new prospects that would be coming their way. It took more than fifteen minutes for Harry to thread his way as politely as he could through the throng of bodies, shoving only the students he knew well and wishing them luck in their future.

Finally he saw a break in the crowd and made for it, breathing a sigh of relief as he broke free of the press of celebration.

"Harry! Harry!" The Gryffindor froze at the call, but forced a smile onto his face and turned to greet the pack of Weasley's who were making their way over to him.

"Oh, Harry my boy!" Molly Weasley cried, scooping him up into a backbreaking hug, "Oh, I'm so proud of you!" She wiped away a tear from her eye, and Harry smiled up at her tentatively before backing out of her embrace. Ron and Hermione- and Mr. and Mrs. Granger- stood at the edge of the family, and one by one Harry was hugged and congratulated by the entire family.

"Knew you could do it, Harry," George said, grinning and tugging on his hair before smacking him on the back, ignoring the 'oomph' as the air was driven out of the Saviour's lungs. "Come by the store in a few days, I've got a bunch of stuff for you to try." Harry nodded as he tried to get his air back, turned to face Arthur as the man clapped him on the shoulder.

"Well, I suppose you've got plans for the summer, Harry. But do feel free to stop by whenever you like, hmm?" Harry smiled in thanks at the patriarch of the clan, and started to reply, but was cut off by arms thrown around his waist.

"But Harry's staying with us this summer!" Ginny cried out, staring up at Harry with large, pleading amber eyes, "Ron said so!" Harry's head lifted and he sought his friend out- the other looked far too pleased with himself at Harry's sake. But the satisfied expression slid from his face as the full weight of Harry Potter's magic rested on him.

"What was that, Ginny?" Harry asked, and for a moment a bubble of silence filled their little group. "What did Ron tell you?"

The youngest Weasley looked from her brother to his friend, and carefully unwrapped her arms from Harry's waist. "Um- that you would be spending the summer with us until you applied as an Auror Cadet in the fall…?"

"Is that so?" Harry breathed, eyes still locked on the other Gryffindor's frozen figure. "I wonder where he got his information?"

Ron broke free from his paralysis for a moment, and shifted nervously. "Now, Harry, don't be like that." Harry raised a brow in unconscious imitation of Draco, and Ron gulped. "I really did think you would spend the summer in the Burrow."

Harry shook his head in exasperation, even as the rest of the Weasley family watched- amusement from George, and confusion from the rest- and sighed. "Whatever." With another sigh, Harry stepped forward and kissed Hermione on the cheek. "You have my number- call me when you're all settled and we'll hang out sometime," he said, nodding respectfully to her parents.

Hermione gave him a hug, and nodded, and Harry turned back to the Weasley's. "I'll see some of you at some point," he said, though before he could be caught up in another conversation with them someone else caught his attention.

"Hero," a dry voice called from behind him, and he and the Weasley's turned to look, "Come away from the Blood-trai- I mean, the Weasley's." Every member of the Weasley family stiffened at the insult as Draco Malfoy glanced over them all disdainfully, before dismissing them from his attention and turning back to Harry. "Someone wants to meet you."

With that, the Slytherin walked away, and Harry did not hesitate before following.

"Harry! Mate, where are you going?" Ron broke out, goaded into speaking by the sheer impossibility of the fact that Harry was obeying someone who had just called him and his family 'Blood-traitors'.

Harry stopped, and glanced over his shoulder, and replied as coolly as any Pureblood could. "Draco wants me to meet someone- and I want to see who it is." He didn't stay any longer, and as he walked away he could hear the rush of conversation start as they wondered what spell Malfoy had placed on him. He sighed, wondering if they knew anything of 'free will', and followed the Slytherin into the crowd.

"Hello, Mrs. Malfoy," Harry greeted as politely as he could, shooting a look at Draco. But the blond was only amused, and smirked at the sight the Gryffindor made.

"Oh, please, Mr. Potter. Call me Narcissa- after all you have done for me, I could never allow otherwise." Harry swallowed, but smiled faintly.

"Then you must call me Harry."

Draco watched their interaction intently, his arctic eyes picking up all the nuances of a conversation that they had not even had yet. His mother was seated on one of the benches in the shade surrounding the Lake, and no one else was anywhere near them. His mother's release from prison was still too new for her to bear too much excitement, and so she had waited here for all the ceremonies to be done.

The marks of her imprisonment still showed on her face- she was thin- too thin, and pale, far paler than she should have been. Though her robes were carefully tailored they still hung on her bones and not her curves, and Draco refrained once more from flinching at what they had done to his mother. She tired easily, and though her strength was slowly returning even this much excitement was enough to drain her.

Harry studied the woman seated before him unobtrusively as she talked to her son. It was obvious to see where Draco had received his features- his were the more masculine version of Narcissa's beauty. His eyes, likewise. Harry studied them carefully, noting that but for their sex and hair color they could have been siblings. With a flash of insight, the Gryffindor knew what Draco would look like when he was older- and he knew, as well, that he wanted to be there with the Slytherin.

Harry frowned at the thought, and Draco turned to him with an eyebrow arched in question. But he shook his head, and the blond returned to his conversation, leaving Harry to his thoughts.

Harry leaned against the railing on the balcony, studying the stars that mapped out the sky. He was so high off of the ground that it almost seemed to him that he was being raised to the stars themselves- that they may judge him worthy or not, as they pleased. He sighed, and his breath was whisked away by the balmy night wind.

The sounds of house elves going about their business drifted from the interior of the Manor, and Harry leaned farther out over the edge of the rail, wondering if- at this height- he would be able to see anything in the gardens below him.

"Do try to refrain from throwing yourself off of the balcony," a voice said from his side, and Draco materialized out of the shadows. "The house elves would think they were to blame, and Mother would be disappointed in you."

Harry chuckled absently at the Slytherin's comment, though he made no move to change his position. Draco sighed, and moved forward until his hip was leaning against the same railing, arms crossed over his chest.

"Why, may I ask, are you glaring at the ground like that?"

Harry ignored the blonds' question for the moment, tilting his head until he could see better- and yes. There was someone moving down there, and if he wasn't mistaken it was Mrs. Malfoy herself. Satisfied, Harry pushed away from the rail and grinned at Draco.

"No reason at all, you suspicious Slytherin." Harry grinned at the cross expression on the blonds' face, but waved his hand to the ground. "I wanted to see if I would be able to tell who was walking in the garden." He shrugged. "And I did."

Draco raised a disbelieving brow, but glanced over the edge himself. After a moment, he looked back at his houseguest. "And why would you care if my mother was in the garden?" he asked slowly, and Harry shook his head.

"Not just your mother- though it did help that someone was actually down there- I just wanted to see…" Draco's expression did not change, and Harry decided to just let it go. Chances were Draco would never understand him, sometimes. "Nevermind. It was a suspicion I wanted to confirm."

Draco nodded a little, and Harry let the silence build again as he studied the blond.

Draco's mother had extended Harry the invitation to stay at the Manor for a few weeks, and Harry had wasted no time in accepting it, something that had stumped him. Hadn't he declined the same offer from the Weasley's? But as he thought about it more and more, it began to make sense.

It was not only Narcissa he wanted to be near during the summer holiday- though he did, in fact, want to stay as close to her as possible. There were rumours that the newly elected Minister would try to reinstate the charges that had been dropped, and Harry would be damned if he let that happen. But it was Draco himself that Harry wanted to be near, though he wondered what the blonds' reaction to that would be.

The Slytherin's cool voice cut into Harry's thoughts.

"What are you thinking about, Hero?" Harry looked up into those frosty eyes and smiled- he wondered what the blond would say if he knew.

"Nothing much," he lied. "Just this and that." Harry shrugged. The Slytherin's eyes gleamed in the starlight, and Harry had to strangle the urge to ogle him.

"Well, Mother is planning a get together for a few nights from now- just some old family friends." Draco grinned, and his teeth shone in the dim light for a moment. "The Parkinsons, the Zabini's, maybe the Notts and the Goyle's." Harry winced, and Draco's sharp eyes caught the movement.

"What, Hero? Do you think that they will dare say anything to you while you are in my house under my protection?" For a fraction of a second, Draco's wintry eyes froze. "They would be foolish, indeed, to anger a Malfoy in his own House." Harry shivered from the sheer weight of power behind those words, and the Slytherin's eyes met Harry's.

"Does that intimidate you, Potter?" Draco asked, and for the first time in a long while, his voice was a cold as a moonless winters night. Harry started at the words, and shook his head, the beginnings of a smile creeping onto his lips. Oh, but he wondered what the blond would think if he could read Harry's thoughts at this moment. Draco spoke again, his voice as frigid as the north wind.

"If you do not wish to accept Malfoy protection while you are under my roof, you are free to leave whenever you wish." Harry felt his own magic begin to rise in response to Draco's, the Slytherin's anger allowing his magic to escape it's tight bonds. "I will not force you to stay- you are a guest, and not a prisoner, whatever those foolish Weasley's believe." Draco's mouth twisted with a moue of disgust at the mere mention of the other Pureblood family, and Harry stepped forward, the movement catching Draco off guard

"You told me once, long ago, that I would have to choose my captor." Draco frowned at the paraphrase, and opened his mouth to correct Harry, but the Gryffindor wasn't finished. "Have I not rejected Dumbledore and his colleagues? Did I not choose to stay with you and your mother after the Weasley's had already made an offer?"

Draco stayed silent as Harry spoke, his eyes latching onto every movement Harry made, his ears catching every nuance of what Harry was saying.

Harry smiled at Draco, and shook his head slightly. "If you believe that I would give you up after I have already claimed you, you are mistaken." Harry's mouth formed a grim, hard line as Draco's lips parted in shock.

"I will stay here. Your mother has welcomed me into her home, and she has overcome whatever objections she once had to my presence." Harry turned away from the stunned blond. "But you, of course, can change your mind. I will abide by your decision."

There was silence form the Slytherin, and Harry stared at the stars. As he had said, he would abide by whatever Draco decided.

A hand on his arm made him turn- for he could count on one hand the amount of times the Slytherin willingly touched him- and stared into those starlit silver eyes.

"You will stay… Harry." Draco said finally. "I wish it."