As expected, the Headmistress soon put a halt to the mistletoe-induced madness and things returned to normal within a number of hours, except for an occasional shout of "Harry Poufter!", although that was generally hurled from a crowd so the party could not be identified.
The Slytherins were more open about it, of course. Harry snarled at the unfairness. Malfoy had been the one to cancel the damned Shield Charm, and yet no one was calling him a shirtlifter.
"That's because everyone already knows he likes boys, Harry," Hermione explained after his rant.
He gaped at her. "What?" What? What? It seemed to echo in his head.
Hermione rolled her eyes at him. "Honestly, Harry, I realize you dislike gossip, but once in a while there is some truth in it."
Ron nodded and spoke around a large mouthful of chocolate biscuit. "Even I knew that, mate."
Harry glared. They all knew, and yet no one had seen fit to inform him of the fact. Malfoy's little kissing prank suddenly became much clearer. "Thanks for ruddy telling me," he growled.
"Thought you knew," Ron said with a shrug. "'Sides, why would you care?"
Hermione made a choking noise, drawing the attention of both Ron and Harry.
"Swallowed wrong," she said and pushed away her glass of pumpkin juice. Harry's eyes narrowed and he wondered if Hermione had been talking to Ginny.
Ginny had actually pinpointed Harry's preferences before he did. Harry had tried having a physical relationship with her. Twice. The first time, he had blamed his lost erection on nerves; the second time it had been more than obvious that something was wrong.
It started with the breasts. He had never been sure what to do with the fleshy lumps and shied away from touching them. Kissing his way down Ginny's flat stomach had been easier, until faced with her completely unfamiliar feminine parts that had twice sent him into a panicked sweat that felt both cold and hot at once.
Their second attempt at intimacy had resulted in Ginny laughing softly and cupping Harry's traumatised face in her hands. "Harry, my darling," she had said. "I'm afraid you are dreadfully gay."
He had tried to deny it, spluttering while she dressed, but she had been adamant. "Nonsense, Harry. I've suspected it for quite some time. You go positively green any time you see my bosoms and I know you liked me far better when I was thin and boyish. Besides, I've caught you checking out random boys enough times to know I have no chance whatsoever."
They had parted amicably enough and Ginny had kindly explained to the other Weasleys that Harry was "far too much of a brother-figure to her" and that it would never work out between them. Harry found himself liking Ginny even more since they had broken up, as she was the only one who openly knew of his preference and often took great delight in pointing out fit boys for them to mutually ogle.
But Malfoy… Well, that was a surprise. On one memorable occasion, he and Ginny had included Malfoy in their pornographic musings, speculating at length as to what Malfoy would be like in bed. Their consensus was that he would be something of a cold fish, spoiled and demanding, expecting to be serviced, rather than participating actively. Now, though, Harry wondered.
Potions was maddening, with Malfoy ignoring Harry completely while the rest of the Slytherins did not. Harry put them all out of his mind with determination and managed to brew a passable potion, for once, if only to spite them all. Ron and Hermione lingered after class, obviously wanting some time alone to snog.
Harry left the dungeons and made it as far as the third floor before a strange rumbling sound met his ears. He looked up at the next flight of stairs to see a veritable herd of gigantic gingerbread men stampeding toward him.
Harry gaped at them. In his time, he had fought trolls, dementors, inferi, and evil undead wizards, but the incongruous sight of massive baked goods charging toward him with horrifying howls of rage and frosting-formed expressions of fury was simply too much to take in.
An instant before he was trampled beneath doughy brown feet, someone snatched at his robes and dragged him aside before shoving him into an alcove. The ginger-scented storm swarmed by, howling, tearing portraits from the walls and knocking over suits of armour and assorted potted plants along the way.
The chest of Harry's benefactor nearly crushed his as they waited it out. Someone had obviously sabotaged the Hufflepuff display. Their Glittering Golden Gumdrop Garden had been filled with magical sweets of all shapes and sizes, including a huge, yellow-clad gingerbread army. The last time Harry had seen them, however, they had been quite lifeless and not at all inclined to run amok.
"Thanks," Harry said as the stampede moved down the hall. Screams from students mingled with the weird bellows from the gingerbread men. He turned his head to look at his rescuer and felt a moment of pure shock when he beheld Draco Malfoy.
"You saved me from being trampled by oversized treats?" Harry asked stupidly. Malfoy nodded. "Why?"
"You saved us from He Who Must Not Be Named. It was the least I could do."
Malfoy's tone was flippant, but he was still pressed uncomfortably close to Harry. His light cologne was seductive and seemed to stealthily invade Harry's senses.
"No, really. Why?" Harry asked again.
"I suppose I wanted to see if this morning was just a fluke," Malfoy replied.
"This morning?" Harry repeated, feeling somewhat breathless.
Malfoy made a humming sound of agreement and then kissed him.
Harry had thought the kiss in the hallway was brilliant, but it paled to insignificance compared to this. Knowing there were no onlookers, coupled with the knowledge that Malfoy was willingly kissing him, and the astonishing fact that Malfoy preferred blokes... It was almost too much to accept.
Malfoy's lips were soft, and also sweet, as though he had been eating cinnamon candy. Harry's lips parted immediately, seeking more of the elusive flavour hidden beneath the sweetness. His tongue pushed into Malfoy's mouth, tracing over teeth and gums and then drawing sensual lines over Malfoy's tongue. Harry wasn't sure about his skill as a kisser, but judging by Malfoy's response, he appeared to be doing all right.
Malfoy seemed to melt against him, adding the pressure of abdomen and thighs to the weight already pushing against Harry's chest. He made a whimpering sound and met Harry lick for lick and stroke for stroke, until Harry felt languid heat stealing through his body. His hands curved around Malfoy's waist, holding him in place, marvelling at the feel of Malfoy's slender form.
Harry had kissed Ginny plenty of times, but it had never been like this. The amazing brilliance served to cement his awareness that he did, indeed, prefer the touch of a man. A certain part of his anatomy began to second that opinion, and just as Harry began to pull away, the sound of rushing feet broke them apart.
Malfoy stared at him through grey eyes that seemed almost mesmerized. His breath panted through half-open lips wet with Harry's saliva.
A group of students raced past their hiding place, shrieking. The wails of the gingerbread folk grew louder once more.
"Oh, for fuck's sake," said Malfoy and stepped out into the hallway. He raised his wand just as Harry snapped himself out of his kissing-induced trance and hurried to join him.
"Aguamenti!" Malfoy yelled, aiming at the legs of the nearest approaching treat-monster. The creature sprawled at his feet, howling, losing all ability to stand as its legs dissolved.
Harry joined him, standing shoulder to shoulder with Malfoy as they systematically took down the gingerbread army, felling the last of them just as McGonagall and Flitwick reached the top of the stairs.
McGonagall looked at the sludgy mess of wet, gooey gingerbread and snapped, "Who is responsible for this?"
Harry looked curiously at Malfoy, who glared at him.
"Certainly not Slytherin!" Malfoy snapped. "We have been focused on assuring that Gryffindor doesn't win. We don't care about Hufflepuff. I suggest you look to Ravenclaw. This Charm seems to be their style. It would be tricky to pull off."
Harry nodded and McGonagall seemed to evaluate Malfoy's words. Harry said, "Honestly, Professor, I don't think it was Slytherin."
She sighed. "Very well, Mr Malfoy. You may go. You also, Harry."
Malfoy gave him a measuring look and said, "I will see you later, Potter." The words, delivered in a tone that was almost a purr, brought instant heat to Harry's cheeks.
He let the blond take four steps before calling, "Malfoy!"
The Slytherin paused and looked back over his shoulder.
"I look forward to it," Harry said with a grin.
Harry could hardly wait to find Ginny and tell her about snogging Draco Malfoy, or Malfoy snogging him, or however it had happened. He paused halfway back to Gryffindor Tower, however, realizing that maybe he wasn't ready to share the fact that their speculation had been extremely wrong. Malfoy did not seem to be passive at all. Harry's image of him as a cold-fish spoiled brat had undergone extreme revision.
He was still in shock that Malfoy had kissed him at all. The first time had apparently been part of a joke, but the second? With no witnesses?
Still, it could be a Slytherin trick and Harry tried not to be too hopeful. The kissing, though, had been amazing.
At dinner that night, Harry's gaze kept straying to Malfoy's back. He wished the Slytherin would at least turn around. Studying Malfoy's backside, while not completely without merit, was not conducive to calming his nerves.
Before the meal started, McGonagall stood up and banged her glass with her wand for attention. The room quieted and stared at her.
"It has come to our attention," she said, "that many of you have chosen to sabotage the decorating projects of your rival houses in order to prevent them winning." Her glare seemed to travel from one student to the other, until the entire room quailed from her wrath. Harry squirmed, aware of his guilt in the Slytherin incident.
"Therefore, we have decided that this will no longer be a House-specific contest. We will henceforth be dividing up the teams. More details will be provided tomorrow. I suggest you go to your beds this evening and think about the concepts of unity and teamwork."
Harry's gaze strayed once more and he considered the concepts of unity and teamwork in an entirely different context. He flushed just as Malfoy turned and quirked an eyebrow at him, as if sensing his less-than-pure thoughts. Harry smiled. Malfoy nodded curtly, as though they were acquaintances, but at least he had not ignored him completely.
Breakfast was a unique affair. McGonagall's surprise announcement of the previous night was nothing compared to the news she imparted during the morning meal.
"The Sorting Hat will be used to divide the teams evenly," she said. "Please come up to the front as soon as your name is called." A shocked silence met her words for a moment, and then the hall erupted into loud whispers. The Headmistress ignored them.
"Jessica Aarons!" she called.
A scared-looking Hufflepuff girl timidly approached the stool, sat down, and was promptly Sorted into Slytherin. A green and silver armband appeared around her right bicep as the Slytherin table cheered. The poor girl staggered back to her table, looking ready to cry.
Harry watched with interest as student after student was "Sorted". Hermione was sent to Ravenclaw and Malfoy, perhaps not surprisingly, remained in Slytherin. When it was Harry's turn, the room seemed to hold its breath.
Harry sat on the stool and smiled as the Hat was dropped onto his head.
I would like to go to Slytherin this time, Harry thought confidently, speaking to the Hat through the strange sort of telepathy inherent in the Hat's magic.
Last time, you were not so keen to go there, it said, seeming almost petulant.
I am, perhaps, a bit wiser, Harry suggested.
As you like, the Hat replied and bellowed, "Slytherin!"
Harry grinned as he stood up. His eyes met Malfoy's, but the Slytherin remained expressionless as Harry returned to the Gryffindor table with his green armband.
"Sorry, mate," said Ron, who was later given a Hufflepuff armband, much to his mortification.
"You will each report to your specified work areas after the meal and elect Team Captains to oversee your projects. The winning team will no longer receive House Points, but instead will be given an additional pass to Hogsmeade after the holidays."
There was a collective cheer at that announcement and Harry felt a jolt of excitement at the thought of going to Hogsmeade with Malfoy, and without Ron and Hermione in tow. The game had suddenly grown much more interesting.
Later, standing in front of the wintery Slytherin display, Harry felt a burst of unexpected pride. It was beautifully done. A warm pressure against his back caused him to turn his head, only to see Malfoy standing behind him, so close that their shoulders pressed together.
"Interesting that you ended up here, Potter," Malfoy said and Harry thought his tone contained a hint of tease.
"Not so interesting when you take into account the fact that I asked the Hat to put me here."
Harry heard an intake of breath and then Malfoy's lips grazed his ear as he whispered, "Why would you do that?"
"Would you believe it's because I think your display might win?" Harry offered.
"No," Malfoy said. His lips drew slowly down the shell of Harry's ear, earning a shudder. Harry glanced around, without turning his head, to see who might be watching. They were largely being ignored by the newcomers, who were an assorted group of students from other houses.
The few remaining Slytherins, including Theo Nott, watched them suspiciously.
"Then, maybe it was because of you," Harry whispered, feeling a rush of warmth at Malfoy's nearness.
"I find that even harder to believe," Malfoy murmured and nibbled at Harry's earlobe, biting it lightly while tracing the edge with his tongue.
Harry groaned and leaned back slightly. To his surprise, Malfoy looped an arm around his waist and drew him even closer. Harry suddenly wanted nothing more than to drag him into a more private place and resume their earlier activities.
"Does this public display bother you, Potter?" Malfoy asked as he let go of Harry's ear to slide his lips down the line of Harry's throat.
"Should it? You're the one about to be hexed by your housemates, I think. Nott looks none too pleased."
"Really? He'll have to get in line behind Longbottom, then. He's gaping at me as though he wants to run me through. Where did that sword go, by the way?"
It took Harry a moment to figure out that Malfoy was referring to the Sword of Gryffindor, which Neville had used to destroy Voldemort's snake. It was difficult to think at all with Malfoy sucking on his neck in such a pleasant fashion.
"I don't know what sickening spell you two are caught in," Theo Nott said loudly, "and I don't care. But can we get on with whatever we are supposed to be doing so that we can go back to our dorms? I have studying to do."
The suggestion jolted Harry. Spell? Was it possible that he was suddenly enthralled with Malfoy—and vice versa—because of a spell? Another prank gone horribly wrong?
Malfoy sighed and stopped nibbling on Harry's neck. He tried not to feel disappointment.
"Very well. I elect Potter as our new Team Captain," Malfoy said loudly.
Harry pulled away in order to turn and stare at him. "You are under a spell," he said with a sinking feeling.
"I knew it!" Nott said in a crowing tone. "I'm taking you to the hospital wing."
Neville stepped forward, also, nodding. "Good idea, Harry. You should both go."
"Maybe we should," Harry muttered.
Malfoy's eyes narrowed. "Are you saying you think I'm enchanted, Potter?"
Harry suddenly didn't know what to think. Kissing Malfoy had been amazing and brilliant, but what if it was completely false, induced by a random spell?
His silence must have been answer enough for Malfoy, who spun on a heel and stalked away.
Harry took two steps after him, alarmed at Malfoy's response after the touching and neck nibbling.
"Coming, Potter?" Malfoy snarled. "We must get rid of this odious spell as quickly as possible, mustn't we?"
Harry glanced at Neville, who looked ready to accompany him, and shook his head. He ran to catch up with Malfoy, whose ground-eating stride had already carried him far down the hallway. It seemed to take Harry forever to catch him.
"Malfoy, wait. Wait up! Malfoy—Draco!" Harry saw his steps falter on the last word and he put on a burst of speed before grabbing the blond by the shoulder and spinning him around. Malfoy tried to shake him off, but Harry tightened his grip and pushed him against the wall. "Stop, damn you! What's gotten you into such a tiff?"
Malfoy sneered. "Like you even care. Let's just go get your bloody antidote, or whatever, and go back to despising one another." Despite his words, Malfoy didn't look very angry. He looked more… defeated.
He reached up and cupped Malfoy's face with one hand, facing down the glare and holding on when Malfoy tried to jerk his face free.
"Hey," Harry said softly. "You know I don't believe we're under a spell."
He leaned closer and Malfoy hissed, "Yes, you do."
"No, I don't," Harry replied and kissed him.
Each time Malfoy tried to speak, Harry attacked his mouth with lips and tongue, until they were both gasping for breath. Malfoy had given up trying to free himself and his hands tightly gripped the fabric of Harry's robes. Harry's hand had moved down to curl around the back of Malfoy's neck, lightly caressing his fine blond hair.
"You're telling me that is not spell-induced?" Malfoy asked in a rush, obviously expecting Harry to silence him again.
Harry nuzzled the edges of Malfoy's kiss-reddened lips and made a negative grunt.
"I think it's more gorgeous blond-induced. Why? Do you think you're ensorcelled?"
"You think I'm gorgeous?"
"Prat. You know you are. All the more reason for you to answer my question. If I'm not under a spell, it must be you. Otherwise, you would never have kissed me. Right?"
"Don't be an idiot, Potter. I've wanted to kiss you for years."
Harry drew back to stare at him, half-convinced that he was acting under a malevolent spell after that daft admission. "Years," he repeated skeptically.
Malfoy nodded and looked away, leading Harry to finally believe he was serious. He drew in a surprised breath and kissed Malfoy once more, feeling somewhat awed and more than a little ashamed of his previous feelings. He had never once suspected Malfoy might feel anything toward him but malice. Malfoy's hatred suddenly became more understandable.
"I didn't know," he whispered, meaning it as an apology.
"Of course you didn't know," Malfoy said. "How could you? I certainly never advertised that I was attracted to the boy whose downfall I plotted since age eleven."
Harry grinned. "Did you really? Plot my downfall, I mean. It seems you were not altogether serious, considering the efficacy of your plans."
Malfoy socked him in the side and Harry oofed before chuckling, because Malfoy actually blushed. Harry admired it for a moment. Malfoy looked amazingly adorable with pink tinting his cheeks. Harry was amazed that he had never noticed that, before. Or perhaps he had and simply hadn't acknowledged it.
"So. We are agreed that neither of us is under the influence of a spell?" Harry asked.
Malfoy swallowed and then nodded firmly. Harry smiled.
"Excellent. Then let's forget this nonsense and start working on a way to win this contest. I admit I'm looking forward to spending some time with you in a setting that doesn't have so many unpleasant memories for us." He indicated their surroundings with a vague gesture.
"What about your friends?" Malfoy asked.
"What about yours?" Harry countered.
Malfoy smiled and Harry decided that was even better than the blushing. And almost as good as the kissing, and wasn't it about time to resume that particular activity? Malfoy was more than amenable and they spent several long minutes at it until interrupted by a group of students passing by.
Harry assumed the gossip would reach the ears of their friends long before either of them could. In that, he was right.
"I just…" Ron said for the seventh time. "Does it have to be Malfoy, mate?"
"Ron!" Ginny burst out. "Get over it! The git is gorgeous and if anyone can handle him, it's Harry. Now, deal with it and move on!"
Harry grinned at her and spent a delicious moment thinking of ways he would like to "handle" Malfoy. Draco. He needed to start calling him Draco. Someday. In fact, today should probably be that day, considering where they were headed.
The object of his wayward thoughts appeared in the doorway, pulling the attention of all of them. Even Hermione lifted her eyes from her book to give Malfoy an appraising glance.
"He'll do, I suppose," she muttered, sounding only slightly disapproving.
"Malfoy," Ron wailed in a low tone, sounding forlorn.
"Hi, Draco!" Ginny called pleasantly and waved. "Say hello to your father for me. Be sure to mention that I am alive and well and have nearly forgiven him for the diary incident."
Malfoy's lips set in a thin line and Harry groaned as Ginny laughed.
"I'm only joking. Merlin, you two are tense. Are you sure this is a good idea?" she asked.
They shook their heads in unison. In the end, the Ravenclaw corridor with their damned Nutcracker Spectacular had won the contest, accompanied by much gloating from Hermione. Harry still thought their wintery display should have won, despite epic sword battles, dancing fairies, and fireworks—all right, the best team had won. But still, the outcome necessitated a change in plans, so Malfoy had invited Harry to Malfoy Manor for a luncheon.
With his parents.
Harry thought he might prefer to face Voldemort again.
Malfoy cleared his throat. "Ready, Potter? I mean, Harry."
"You promise they won't hex me?" Harry asked for at least the seventh time.
Malfoy's lips twitched. "I promise they won't hex you without going through me, first. Now, come on. Let's get this over with."
Harry got to his feet and regarded his friends with a solemn mien. "Goodbye, dear friends. If I do not return, you all know what to do with my assorted things—"
He was not allowed to finish as an arm wrapped around his neck and practically dragged him from the library. Random laughter followed them. In the corridor, Malfoy switched his hold to Harry's waist and Harry reciprocated as they made their way to McGonagall's office.
"You'll be fine, Harry," Draco said as they waited for the stone steps to open up.
"I know," Harry said. "I'm willing to take on a Hungarian Horntail as long as you're with me."
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "A Hungarian Horntail? Please. You have already done that. Shouldn't you try something new? A lethifold or a manticore, perhaps?"
"You want me to fight a manticore?"
"If I am in danger, I expect it."
"If you were in danger, I might consider it."
"Consider it?" Malfoy's voice echoed stridently in the stairwell as they ascended. "You had better do more than consider it, Hero Boy."
"You know, you're a very difficult boyfriend," Harry complained as they stopped before the large fireplace. The Headmistress was not in attendance; she had given them permission to use the Floo Connection.
"But, I am worth it," Malfoy said smugly. He turned and took Harry's hands in his.
Harry leaned in for one more kiss. "You're worth it," he agreed.